Researchers Uncover Identity Of Spider Discovered By Darwin More Than A Century Ago

Jun 04, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Researchers at The George Washington University recently uncovered the identity of a spider that was originally found by Charles Darwin in Brazil more than a century and a half ago. Using notes taken by Darwin himself, the researchers uncovered the identity of the species, "Leucauge argyrobapta," and many aspects of the identity of the genus "Leucauge" that will now help taxonomists understand this complicated lineage of orb-weaving spiders to which this species belongs.

“This finding greatly facilitates future work in one of the most diverse genera,” said Dr. Dimitar Dimitov, a postdoctoral researcher at GW. “At the same time it shows us that looking in our backyard can often present us with surprising and significant findings.”

The first specimen was found in the Tijuca forest located in the heart of Rio de Janeiro and collected by Darwin when he visited during the voyage of the H.M.S. Beagle in 1832. After making the voyage back to London with Darwin for study, the specimen was somehow lost. More than a century and a half later, the GW researchers traveled to Rio to complete the research started by Darwin and found the specimen living in the botanical garden in Rio’s National Museum. Soon thereafter, the researchers were able to realize the importance of these newly collected specimens and understand the only spider name that can be attributed to Darwin. Now, taxonomists will be able to understand even more about this orb-weaving group of spiders and hope that it leads to additional species recognition.

“Deciphering the identity of this species collected by Darwin - the type species of the genus - removes an important obstacle towards a better understanding of the classification of this large and diverse group of spiders,” said Dr. Gustavo Hormiga, Ruth Weintraub Professor of Biology at GW.

"Leucauge argyrobapta," a name meaning “with a bright gleam, dipped in silver,” is part of the orb-weaver family Tetragnathidae, also known as long-jawed spiders. Orb-weaving spiders build spiral, wheel-shaped webs that are often found in gardens, fields and forests. "Leucauge argyrobapta" turned out to be the same species as the orchard spider commonly found in the U.S.

This research is being funded by the National Science Foundation’s program “Partnerships for Enhancing Expertise in Taxonomy.”

Dr. Dimitrov is currently a postdoctoral researcher at the Zoological Museum at the University of Copenhagen. He conducted the research on "Leucauge argyrobapta" with Dr. Hormiga as a postdoctorate at GW from 2005 to 2009 and later as an adjunct research associate. Dr. Hormiga is the Ruth Weintraub Professor of Biology and his work focuses on the systematics and evolutionary biology of spiders with emphasis on orb-weavers and their close relatives.

The article, “Mr. Darwin’s mysterious spider: on the type of the Leucauge White, 1841 (Tetragnathidae, Araneae),” appeared in the March 11, 2010, issue of "Zootaxa."

Explore further: Male monkey filmed caring for dying mate (w/ Video)

Provided by George Washington University

4.5 /5 (2 votes)

Related Stories

Scientists discover largest orb-weaving spider

Oct 21, 2009

Researchers from the United States and Slovenia have discovered a new, giant Nephila species (golden orb weaver spider) from Africa and Madagascar and have published their findings in the Oct. 21 issue of the ...

Ground spider diversity studied in research project

Dec 30, 2006

None of Takesha Henderson's discoveries are named Charlotte, but they are weaving a new chapter in Texas entomology. Her graduate studies at Texas A&M University have led to the discovery of 25 new spiders in Brazos County ...

Darwin egg from Beagle voyage found by museum volunteer

Apr 10, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- An egg collected by Charles Darwin while on HMS Beagle - and thought to be the last such specimen known to exist - has been rediscovered by an octogenarian volunteer at Cambridge University's Zoology Museum.

Mosquitoes supply spider with blood

Oct 11, 2005

Scientists in Sydney, Australia, say they've determined an East African species of jumping spider prefers to prey on blood-engorged female mosquitoes. And that, the Macquarie University researchers said, demonstrates a rare ...

Recommended for you

Male monkey filmed caring for dying mate (w/ Video)

Apr 18, 2014

(Phys.org) —The incident was captured by Dr Bruna Bezerra and colleagues in the Atlantic Forest in the Northeast of Brazil.  Dr Bezerra is a Research Associate at the University of Bristol and a Professor ...

Orchid named after UC Riverside researcher

Apr 17, 2014

One day about eight years ago, Katia Silvera, a postdoctoral scholar at the University of California, Riverside, and her father were on a field trip in a mountainous area in central Panama when they stumbled ...

In sex-reversed cave insects, females have the penises

Apr 17, 2014

Researchers reporting in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on April 17 have discovered little-known cave insects with rather novel sex lives. The Brazilian insects, which represent four distinct but re ...

Fear of the cuckoo mafia

Apr 17, 2014

If a restaurant owner fails to pay the protection money demanded of him, he can expect his premises to be trashed. Warnings like these are seldom required, however, as fear of the consequences is enough to ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Biologists help solve fungi mysteries

(Phys.org) —A new genetic analysis revealing the previously unknown biodiversity and distribution of thousands of fungi in North America might also reveal a previously underappreciated contributor to climate ...

Researchers successfully clone adult human stem cells

(Phys.org) —An international team of researchers, led by Robert Lanza, of Advanced Cell Technology, has announced that they have performed the first successful cloning of adult human skin cells into stem ...

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.