Moodbidri naturalist aides study on spider

Moodbidri naturalist aides study on spider

At a time of widespread complaints regarding misuse of social media by people, here is a heartening story on how social media helped advance scientific knowledge about a unique species of spiders.

Thanks to a sharp observation made by a Facebook user, an endemic South-Asian species of jumping spider, Hyllus semicupreus has been discovered to feed on insect eggs for the first time ever.

This behaviour is a discovery on the species and has been reported by a team of researchers from Mumbai, based on the inputs provided by a wildlife photographer based in Andhra Pradesh. This discovery is also significant as it can help in furthering biological means of pest control.

The discovery is published in the latest issue of ‘Peckhamia’, a peer-acclaimed international scientific journal dedicated to the study of jumping spiders. The study was led by principal author and lead researcher Javed Ahmed, with co-researchers being Rajashree Khalap and Dr Krishna Mohan, who is a naturalist and surgeon based in Moodbidri. It was collaborated with Dr David E Hill, a world authority on jumping spiders, and Dr Richard J Pearce, British spider expert.

The discovery was reported by wildlife photographer A N Suresh Kumar, who first recorded this behaviour and shared his observations with the team.


Hyllus semicupreus is a large, bronze-coloured jumping spider. It was seen for the first time in Mumbai in 2015 and also been photographed across Maharashtra, especially Raigad district. The spider can be easily identified in photographs and is known to feed on mainly small insects.

For the first time, Suresh Kumar came across a spider feeding on leaf-footed bug eggs (family Coreidae) on his farmland in Andhra Pradesh. Not knowing he had clicked a new behaviour, he shared these photographs on the “Spiders of the Indian Subcontinent”, a specialist Facebook group which is focused on the documentation, identification and study of Indian spiders.

These photographs were spotted by arachnologist and researcher, Javed Ahmed. Realising the importance of this chance discovery, Ahmed encouraged the photographer to contribute his findings to facilitate a better understanding of spiders, which are severely understudied in India compared to other wildlife such as butterflies, birds and mammals.

Pest control

‘Oophagy’ or preying on eggs is an interesting behaviour. While reported in a number of jumping spiders, it has never before been observed in the Hyllus semicupreus. This discovery is significant because leaf-footed bugs are severe agricultural pests and
such spiders can act as
important pest-control agents.

Acknowledging the useful potential of social media, Javed Ahmed observes, “In this digital age of lightning-fast internet connections and powerful pocket computers (smartphones), which are carried by almost everyone, there’s a lot of potential for social media platforms to act as a bridge between scientists and hobby photographers, to bring to light unique observations on the natural world, never seen before. An important thing to remember though is, these observations, if not reported on an academic platform, such as a peer reviewed scientific journal, would be useless and lost forever.”

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