The TKC Helps Desertas Wolf Spider Project See Goal

 

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We are proud to announce that last week we raised enough funds through charity auctions to help bring  PredatororPrey Online and Bristol Zoo Gardens’ Desertas Wolf Spider project to their goal. It didn’t take much convincing from Tom Patterson when he brought up the project at a TKC board meeting. Conservation and land preservation are something that we all care very deeply about. This project was something that Tom has been watching for a few years.

“I had first read about the declining isolated population of Hogna ingens (Desertas Wolf Spider) in a 2015 article of the British Tarantula Society Journal,” Tom explained.  “I’m happy to see Bristol Zoo Gardens ongoing efforts to restore the ecological balance of the Castanheira Valley where this beautiful critically endangered spider is found. It’s great to be able to help fund projects like this through the TKC, and I hope to work on many future conservation efforts moving forward.” Tom spoke for us all when he concluded. “I wish Bristol Zoo Gardens and all other parties involved the best of luck with their work in the on Deserta Grande Island and the future of Hogna ingens.”

A little bit about the Desertas Wolf Spider project, excerpt from Bristol Zoo Gardens’ website

The Desertas wolf spider (Hogna ingens) is endemic to Vale da Castanheira, Desertas Islands, Madeira, Portugal. Despite having an impressive 40mm body size and being the largest known species of wolf spider, very little is known about this species.

Even though some taxonomists have provided redescriptions, every other aspect of this remarkable species has remained unknown until recently. It was assessed as Critically Endangered according to the IUCN (Cardoso 2014) but is not protected by any international, national or regional legislation or agreements.

In the absence of any native terrestrial mammals, this spider is a top predator in its habitat. Although its major prey consists of other invertebrates, such as beetles, woodlice and millipedes, adults have also been seen predating on juvenile lizards. The latter, along with birds and mice, are the major predators of H. ingens, mostly during its juvenile stage. This is when the spider is most vulnerable to predators because in addition to its smaller size, it tends to disperse in order to find new shelters, thus maximizing the likelihood of encounters with potential predators. As spiders grow and find proper shelters, mostly below rocks but also in soil crevices, their inclination to disperse gradually decreases. It takes about two years for spiders to reach maturity.

The small valley where the spider lives is currently mostly covered by Phalaris spp. The colonization of this grass in the Vale da Castanheira was hidden for some years due to the presence of rabbits that grazed and controlled the spread of the plant. With the eradication of rabbits from the Valley in 1996, Phalaris lost its main predator and now proliferates. This grass appears to not only displace many native plants, but also many of the native animals. It covers the surface of the soil and rocks, making the microhabitats below the rocks harder to access for the spiders.

Five year objectives:

– To restore the ecological balance in the Castanheira Valley through reduction of Phalaris density on the assumption that a viable population of spiders will persist across the entire valley
– To analyze the genetic structure of the population, its habitat preferences and the potential consequences of climate change
– To maintain and breed a second spider population at Bristol Zoo Gardens
– To raise awareness of the importance and uniqueness of the spider to visitors at Bristol Zoo Gardens

The TKC often holds auctions for various fundraising endeavors. Each of the board members has very generously donated spiders from our own collections. We have also donated spiders from our shops. The community comes together time and again to raise funds and has shown great support for the TKC.  We will soon be announcing other preservation and conservation efforts that we are working towards. We welcome any suggestions or ideas from our supporters as well. 

To take part in the auctions, supporters are encouraged to join the Facebook group The Tarantula Community

To donate to the cause, click here.

Resources:
Bristol Zoo Gardens Desertas Wolf Spider Project
PredatorOrPrey Online
Photo credit: Emanuele Biggi