Bird poo spider fires up Hilton

2015-10-12 10:30
Hilton College pupils Jonathan Saville and Daniel Meyer examine a then undescribed Pasilobus spider in 2006.

Hilton College pupils Jonathan Saville and Daniel Meyer examine a then undescribed Pasilobus spider in 2006. (Ian Carbutt)

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Pietermaritzburg - A new species of spider, cleverly ­disguised as a bird dropping, has been discovered by Hilton College Environmental Education and Conservation head John Roff.

The spider, known as Hilton ­Pasilobus, was first discovered by Roff in 2006 when he noticed the species’s unusual looking egg case.

“The spider has a very distinctive egg case. When I saw it, I knew I had found something unusual,” said Roff.

“I went back to the egg case that evening and found the spider. I knew it was unusual but as I am an amateur spider researcher, I consulted with professionals who confirmed it was a new species of the Pasilobus family.”

Roff said the spider had a ­“spectacular” camouflage that ­resembled a bird dropping.

“I think the species was overlooked because it looked just like a bird ­dropping. If you saw it on a leaf you would immediately think it is a ­dropping and nothing more.”

He said the species also spins a web around its resting place so it looks like splatter from the dropping.

After discovering the new species in 2006, Roff went through the ­process of naming the spider and publishing his research on the spider in the African Invertebrates scientific journal.

The species is the 13th spider of the Pasilobus species. The spider has an unusual diet, feeding only on male moths which it attracts by releasing a scent similar to that of a female moth. When the male moth ­approaches, it is then caught in the spider’s web.

Roff said he had only seen this ­particular species frequent areas in and close to Pietermaritzburg.

He said the spiders do not have a long life span and others in the same family are found only in Asia, tropical Africa and Pietermaritzburg.

Roff said he had a few Hilton boys involved in the spider’s discovery who were excited about finding something new in the world, “where people think that everything has ­[already] been discovered”

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  animals

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