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Velvet spiders emerge from underground in new cybertaxonomic monograph

Date:
May 23, 2012
Source:
Pensoft Publishers
Summary:
An international team of researchers has produced a milestone work, detailing and expanding the knowledge of velvet spiders - an enigmatic, although not very well known family, with some peculiar (for spiders) social habits. The study was published in a special issue of the open access journal ZooKeys.

Velvet spiders include some of the most beautiful arachnids in Europe and some of the world's most cooperative species.
Credit: Image courtesy of Pensoft Publishers

Velvet spiders include some of the most beautiful arachnids in Europe and some of the world's most cooperative species. Social species can be very abundant in parts of tropical Africa and Asia with conspicuous colonies dotting the landscape. Social colonies may consist of hundreds of closely-related individuals that participate in dramatic mass attacks on prey and care for their young. The ecology of these social species is fascinating and has been the subject of several landmark scientific papers.

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The study was published in a special issue of the open access journal ZooKeys.

By contrast, most kinds of velvet spider are rarely encountered. Most species keep well hidden or dig burrows and live underground. Because of the cryptic habits of most velvet spiders, scientific knowledge of this spider family is uneven to say the least. The name velvet spider accurately describes the dark and shiny appearance of these spiders. Some species also have brightly colored highlights, such as the red, white, and black ladybird spiders of Europe and North Asia. With the exception of one species from Brazil, velvet spiders live in Europe, Asia, and Africa.

The international team assembled to advance basic knowledge about velvet spiders included people and institutions from the Netherlands, Denmark, United States, Czechia, Hungary, and Iran. International collaboration in taxonomic research was the goal of the EDIT (European Distributed Institute of Taxonomy) Integrated Research grant, which provided most of the funding for this project. The team assembled a hefty library of images documenting the anatomy of all the major kinds of velvet spider. This included both portrait-like color photographs and electron micrographs showing details of the spigots that these spiders use to make silk. San Francisco-based artist Giovanni Maki contributed beautiful drawings of the male genitalia. The project also used DNA sequence data to reconstruct the evolutionary history of velvet spiders. The DNA data confirmed that one particularly enigmatic species belongs to a new genus.

In recognition of the fact that this velvet spider lives underground, the new genus has been named Loureedia in a whimsical salute to the musician who began his distinguished career leading the 60s rock band "The Velvet Underground."

In spite of all the progress that this new monograph represents, there is much more work still to be done. Taxonomy is a fundamental science, and advances in it can promote research in other areas. Some of the most obscure groups of velvet spiders from the Mediterranean and Southern Africa will now be more easy to identify and study.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Pensoft Publishers. The original story is licensed under a Creative Commons License. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Jeremy Miller, Charles Griswold, Nikolaj Scharff, Milan Rezac, Tamas Szuts, Mohammad Marhabaie. The velvet spiders: an atlas of the Eresidae (Arachnida, Araneae). ZooKeys, 2012; 195 (0): 1 DOI: 10.3897/zookeys.195.2342

Cite This Page:

Pensoft Publishers. "Velvet spiders emerge from underground in new cybertaxonomic monograph." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 May 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120523115051.htm>.
Pensoft Publishers. (2012, May 23). Velvet spiders emerge from underground in new cybertaxonomic monograph. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 26, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120523115051.htm
Pensoft Publishers. "Velvet spiders emerge from underground in new cybertaxonomic monograph." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120523115051.htm (accessed November 26, 2014).

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