Welcome to my blog

This is where I post various musings about wildlife and ecology, observations of interesting species (often invertebrates)
and bits of research that grab my attention. As well as blogging, I undertake professional ecological & wildlife surveys
covering invertebrates, plants, birds, reptiles, amphibians and some mammals, plus habitat assessment and management
. I don't work on planning applications/for developers. The pages on the right will tell you more about my work,
main interests and key projects, and you can follow my academic work here.

Wednesday 27 November 2013

The spider with emerald jaws

As well as mystery cocoons, breaking up some old fence panels for firewood dislodged numerous scuttling invertebrates. Plenty of woodlice, barklice and so on, and many small spiders, but also a splendid specimen of Segestria florentina. This is the largest species of the familt Segestriidae in Europe, with females reaching up to 22mm in length (excluding legs and other appendages). The family is distinguished by having 6 eyes arranged in a semi-circle (most spiders have 8) and the first three pairs of legs directed forwards (most have the first two forwards and the other two backwards). Although this species can bite (it's apparently painful, a bit like a bee sting or sharp jab with a pin, but not dangerous to humans), when disturbed, they curl up or flee to find a crevice to hide in - being nocturnal hunters using tunnel-webs with radiating threads. First found in Britain in the 19th century, this is a circum-Mediterranean/continental species that most likely arrived with ships to ports in southern England and has since spread slowly northwards - a likely candidate to increase its range as mean temperatures rise with climate change.

A large female Segestria florentina, characteristically curled up when disturbed during daylight.
This photo shows the first three pairs of legs pointing forwards very clearly. They are generally a fairly uniform black in colour with some faint paler marks such as the median line seen here, although this has been enhanced by the camera flash - to the eye, this was a very dark spider. However, the chelicerae (jaws, bearing the fangs) are an iridescent green. She needed a little gentle persuasion to show these, then was allowed to scuttle away under the shed - we do after all run a spider-friendly household...

The iridescent green chelicerae of S. florentina - the arrangement of eyes is also just about visible. Note that I am not testing her ability to bite.

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