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New spider discovery (oh, great!)

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Not everyone’s idea of an exciting discovery, nevertheless, arachnologist Richard Burkmar has discovered a special tiny jumping spider – just half the size of a matchstick head – at Cheshire Wildlife Trust’s Holcroft Moss Nature Reserve.

Richard made the find during a survey visit to the bog in June. His discovery turned out to be a rare Sibianor larae – a species never recorded before in the UK.

The sighting was confirmed when fellow arachnologist Richard Gallon joined him on a return visit to the site where they were able to find more examples of the rare spider.

After studying the arachnid under a microscope, both agreed it fitted the description of the continental species Sibianor larae.

Their next step was a visit to Manchester Museum to see world jumping spider expert, Dmitri Logunov, curator of arthropods at the museum.

Dmitiri then verified that it was a Sibianor larae and was the first recognised sighting in Britain. He had originally described the species when it was entirely new to science in 2001, naming it after his wife Larisa Logunov (Lara is an abbreviated form for Larisa).

Cheshire Wildlife Trust has carried out lowland raised bog restoration work at the Warrington site, and is continuing to improve its condition.

“We were delighted to hear about all the special discoveries that have been made at our Holcroft Moss Nature Reserve,” commented area manager Sarah Bennett, part of the conservation team at Cheshire Wildlife Trust.

“The site is particularly special as it has never been exploited and cut for peat; something which is unusual for most peatland in the UK.

“A number of other rare bog spiders were also discovered during the surveys, including the jumping spider Heliophanus dampfi, making it the only site in England where this has been recorded. It is definitely a special site for bog loving wildlife.”

Far from being a newcomer, the athletic moss-dwelling Sibianor larae spider has almost certainly survived in bogs in the UK for thousands of years, but, like much of our wildlife, experts say it may be suffering due to habitat loss.

The critter’s discovery is part of a wider survey searching for rare spiders in Lancashire and Cheshire bogs, supported by the Tanyptera Trust.

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