An ultra-rare spider genus, Neobrettus, has been discovered in India for the first time by a team of researchers based in Mumbai. One of the researchers involved in the study Dr. Krishna Mohan is a naturalist and surgeon based in Moodabidri.Previously only known from parts of south and south-east Asia, these tiny jumping are egg thieves, often stealing and feeding eggs of some other jumping spiders, including their own kind. These spiders are largely overlooked in their natural environment, most likely as a result of their small size(body length 2.5-3.5mm) and dull colouration.
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The discovery is published in ‘Peckhamia’, a globally renowned, peer-acclaimed scientific journal dedicated to the study of jumping spiders. The study collaborated with Dr. Devid E. Hill a world authority on jumping spiders and Dr. Richard J. Pearce, a leading British spider expert. It was led by principal author and lead researcher Javed Ahmed, along with co-researchers Rajashree Khalap and Dr Krishna Mohan. The discovery was reported by wildlife photographer Indranil Banerjee who first came upon these spiders in a fruit orchard in West Bengal, where they were found to inhabit dried banana leaves.The identification was based on their unique appearance. Consistent with other published description and illustrations these small spiders were compact with a squat and distinctly fuzzy appearance and a stiff ventral fringe of hair on the tibia of the first leg. Males are darker, ranging from dark brown to black, covered with small yellow to pale white spots on the back. Females sported a lighter shade of brown with contrasting pale white bands. About one male was observed for twenty females sighted. Adult Neobrettus were observed preying on small insects, including whiteflies, planthoppers and male mosquitoes that gathered to feed on plant juices. The species probably mate during late winter until late may, just before the onset of the monsoon season. Each female produced a cluster of 12-17 eggs which were laid on a thin layer of slik spun on the surface of a leaf. Brooding females were not observed to leave their egg sac or tho pursue pray during the several weeks that it took for their eggs to hatch.
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