Identifying Spiders of New Zealand: Trite auricoma

As a member of the British Arachnological Society in England I had become accustomed to British and European Spiders, any that I did not recognise, (most of them), I was able to identify using the Key supplied in books on the subject. Now living in New Zealand I have to start all over again, there are some spiders that look familiar but most differ at species level and then there are some that belong to a Genus not found in Europe. I no longer have a telescopic microscope and no key to work by so sketches and the internet will have to do for now for identifying New Zealand spiders.

The Spider

Fig 1 is the first sketch that I created of a spider when it appeared oddly enough on my camera, this is the first spider that I have managed to sketch since moving to New Zealand and as I am unfamiliar with the spiders of this country I have had to use all the tools available to me to identify it. Digital Photography is a very useful tool when studying animals, plants, scenery etc. mainly to remind you of how it and the environment looked at the time, they can preserve the image quickly and store it for reference later, however as the spider was on my camera I could not photograph it. If you intend to make a detailed study of the subject then notes and sketches cannot be beaten. Not only do they posses the details that you record in them but the process of creating them has given you the opportunity to really absorb the information. This can be the case even if art is not your fort'e, it's not the quality of the drawings but the information they contain that counts.

fig:1 Sketch to show the basic detail of spider

As you can see the sketch is crude and basic, it has some detail, it has the shape of a spider with legs (only seven of them in this case, the poor thing appeared to have lost one), and sketches at various angles to attempt to create a three dimensional aspect to the spider. What it lacks is scale, this is vital to studying as it can determine identification at species level, without a scale to the drawing there is no way of discerning the size of the animal except by memory which is not accurate. Fortunately when I sketched this spider it had walked onto my camera, by taking note at the time I was able to measure point to point and create a scale which I can add to my sketches. It is important to note at this point that this hub is not a scientific paper, this hub describes the methods of measuring and identifying purely for fun and interest and measurements are not precise. To obtain precise measurements one would need to use a telescopic microscope and would probably require the spider to be dead.

Sketches were made by using my lens magnifier to see the spider up close and drawing from there, (if I had a the use of a good enough camera I could have taken photos and sketched from that), but where's the fun. This spider was extremely helpful at this point and would stand still looking at me while I studied him. Moving the camera that he stood on around to see different angles, I feel that I managed to get a good amount of information, size, colour, eye arrangement, shape and movement.

Fig 2 More detailed views of spider.

Once I had detailed the spider fig 2, I could begin the process of identification. Some experience of spiders does help with some of the properties for instance this spider was able to methodically raise and maneuver its head using its massive anterior median eyes (front middle of eight). In such a way that it is actively focusing upon its target, 'in this case my lens magnifier that I was using to study it'. Spiders with this feature tend to be roaming hunting spiders, jumping spiders, family Salticidae who through excellent vision can determine size and distance enabling it to accurately pounce on its prey. I then turned to the trusty internet to find a key to classifying Spiders in New Zealand, this was not helpful as it required details for the Pedipalps on males and Epigyn on females, the details of which were well beyond my lens. So I entered jumping spiders in NZ into google images which produced the Genus name Trite the spider that I saw was close to that on google images so I checked at the museum website. the spider described was Trite planiceps, and said to have full black head and front legs, my spider did not, the head was not black. The body shape and eye configuration was the same however so I continued looking, finally I found Trite auricoma, the Goldenbrown jumping spider, this was my spider.

In reality this was the best that I could do, without a concise key, without detail of the male and female sex organs, (Palp ad Epigyn), without sophisticated measuring equipment I cannot be 100% sure of the species described being the exact same as the the spider that I sketched. I am quietly confident that it is though because I have seen a lot of the spider in drawing it, and can confirm that it matches information gleened from the internet. I can now record the date and time that I first saw the spider and give it a location, enough of this information can be useful for research and environmental records, even evidence of climate change, and then add it to my journal.

I am sure that my next spider will not be as easy to keep still while being observed, we shall see.

Native only to NZ
longinqua (L Koch 1867)
no (Aus)
auricoma (Urquart, 1886)
phangioides (Fuesslin, 1775)
no (Glo)

In this hub it has been my intention to discuss the methods and problems involved with identifying spiders quickly and without sophisticated equipment. In doing this I must point out that in no way did I injure the animal for the sake of identification or any other reason as I find great pleasure in trying to sketch the animal and finding ways to keep it still, which I will refer to in later hubs. Sometimes you are fortunate with those methods, most times you are not but ultimately it is satisfying to release the animal unharmed when you are done with it.

Comments 1 comment

Pixel-Alchemist profile image

Pixel-Alchemist 5 years ago from Waitakere Auckland : New Zealand

A great first Hub. I am also happy to learn you would rather observe without the cost of life, no matter how unimportant that life may seem to many. You will find ( when you get to see one ) the Commonly known Avondale Spider to be quite interesting. It was also the spider chosen for its depth and multiple skills to star in the Movie. Acrophobia

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