A Russian Soil Researcher Finds a Possibly Undescribed Spider in Vietnam - (Belated) Observation of the Week, 3/7/20

Our Observation of the Week is this possibly undescribed Gasteracantha spider, seen in Vietnam by @ivanovdg19!

[I apologize for the tardiness of this post, I waited too long to email the participants. - TI]

Another Observation of the Week and, like so many before it, the organism in question is not a taxon which the observer studies or specializes in. Which I think is one of the coolest parts about iNat - it opens up our eyes to things we might never had noticed before.

Dmitry Ivanov is a life-long nature lover, and tells me has “been fond of observation and natural photography since childhood. At first, I was interested in insects, then mushrooms and lichens. As a result, I studied as a soil ecologist, which is what I am now.”

Currently a researcher at the Institute of Ecology and Evolution in Moscow, Dmitry studies soil carbon fluxes in the taiga and tropical ecosystems of Russia and Vietnam, and it was in Bidoup Núi Bà National Park where he found the spider you see above. He didn’t upload it to iNat until he was back home, however, and that’s when @djringer and @michael-gasteracantha saw it. They believe it’s an undescribed species of the genus Gasteracantha, also known as the spiny orbweavers. Michael is working with a friend at Oxford University to revise the genus, and tells me it looks nothing like any of the existing images and descriptions in the literature. He and @djringer started this project, and they wrote a journal post about Dmitry’s spider as well as other likely undescribed species posted to iNat.

“Dmitry's observation is stunning in its own right -- I mean, look at those colors and lines -- and it also illustrates that there are many gasteracanthine species in Asia still lacking a formal scientific description,” David Ringer tells me. 

Of course, the people who have lived alongside this species for hundreds or thousands of years probably have recognized it and named it, but it's unknown in the global scientific literature, as far as we can tell...

There are still big mysteries about the names and relationships of these beautiful animals, but observations that people post to iNaturalist are helping shed new light on them, after a hundred years in the dark...iNaturalist builds community locally and across huge distances, and it opens up whole new worlds of discovery and wonder. 

Unfortunately Dmitry (above, testing soil respiration) won’t be back in Vietnam for a while, but hopes to find a specimen of the spider for study when he returns. He loves nature photography and has quite a archive of photos on his computer.

I was glad to know that there is a site where not only can others help me with the determination of species, but also the data of observations of these species can be used for scientific purposes...This is very important for nature reserves, national parks and other protected natural areas, because often they do not have enough scientists or the data on flora and fauna are almost not distributed in the public domain. New encounters of rare species in such territories further confirm their importance and the need for protection.

By Tony Iwane. Some quotes have been lightly edited for clarity and flow. 

- Dmitry tells me his observation of a Short-toed Snake Eagle in the Central Forest of Russia is the first one documented there in 40 years!

- You can see Dmitry’s research publications here

- And here is footage of a Gasteracantha methodically building its web, set to some classical music.

Posted by tiwane tiwane, March 21, 2020 20:10


Excellent! What a great genus of spiders they are!!!

Posted by susanhewitt over 2 years ago (Flag)

great find
well done

Posted by fiftygrit over 2 years ago (Flag)

We have so many Gasteracantha here and so many undescribed species in the country (especially arthropods and plants) in general that's it's not at all surprising that there would be at least one here that's potentially a new species. In my part of Vietnam we've been running a collection project ( https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/cat-ba-island-and-surrounding-area ) for a while and have a lot of observations for which there are no previous records in the area and that we can't identify to species.

None of us are arthropod specialists, so we can't comment on the likelihood of any of that subset of observations being new species, but it would be completely unsurprising if some of them were.

Posted by earthknight over 2 years ago (Flag)

These are such tremendous journal entries! Really wonderful to live vicariously through the discoveries of other people on iNaturalist.

Thanks for uploading such high quality observations @ivanovdg19 !

Posted by sambiology over 2 years ago (Flag)

Increíble observación de su parte.

Posted by joselinlistur over 2 years ago (Flag)

Fantastic find!

Posted by mothmaniac over 2 years ago (Flag)

Please help me with the identification for this possible new species of the genus Onoretilla. https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/39228664

Posted by eli_rios over 2 years ago (Flag)

Great work and incredible find!

Posted by biocowboy over 2 years ago (Flag)

Well done ! What a find !

Posted by defd over 2 years ago (Flag)

I love hearing about new and rare finds that make their way to iNaturalist.

Posted by chrisleearm over 2 years ago (Flag)

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