New spider species discovered in Palawan underground river
A new cave-dwelling species of Huntsman spider has been found recently by a group of international geographical explorers and scientists in the Puerto Princesa Underground River (PPUR).
Elizabeth Maclang, park superintendent of the Puerto Princesa City Subterranean River National Park (PPSRNP), on Wednesday said the new Huntsman spider species was described as “Heteropoda simoneallmannae sp. nov. (female) from the underground river cave system”.
Huntsman spider belongs to the family “Sparassidae” because of its method of speed and hunting insects as food in deep crevices and narrow openings.
Maclang said the new species was found by experts from the University of Florence, Italy, whose expedition to the PPUR in November 2017 and May this year was arranged by La Venta, a geographical explorations group.
“We are so happy about this new species of spider found inside the cave system of the underground river because it only shows how healthy the ecosystem is there,” Maclang told the Philippine News Agency (PNA).
She added the presence of the Huntsman spider indicates the park management is “on the right track” in implementing the PPUR’s 1,200 carrying capacity.
The number of people allowed inside daily, she added, is “suitable to sustain the natural equilibrium inside the underground river cave system.”
“Imagine this is only a spider, but it gets us excited because it was found within the cave system of the underground river which is in Puerto Princesa and nowhere else yet in the Philippines,” she added.
Peter Jäger from Arachnology, Senckenberg Research Institute in Main, Germany, presented the discovery in his paper as a “new species”, a copy of which he sent to Maclang.
The spider specimens for Jäger’s study were provided by explorers Paolo Agnelli and Stefano Vanni from three caves in the PPSRNP with similar karst or cave topography systems namely PPUR, Tara Cave, and Tagusan Cave.
“They came here in November last year and if I remember correctly, they came again on May 4 to do further study. Then we were informed about this new spider species that was discovered in PPUR,” Maclang said.
A copy of the arachnologist’s abstract obtained by the PNA said the Huntsman spider represents, “besides H. steineri from Laos, the second species within the genus with true cave adaptations”.
The Huntsman spider is called a “troglobiont” as it is strictly found in underground habitats, separate from species that live above ground, according to the arachnologist’s abstract, a copy of which was obtained by PNA.
Before the discovery in the PPUR, only the H. steineri from Xe Bang Fai cave system in Eastern Khammouan Province in Laos is considered “a true troglobiont”, Jäger’s paper said.
The paper said the Huntsman spider has yellowish-brown body color and reddish brown eyes.
Maclang said visitors at the park should not disturb its habitat and will not be able to see the spiders as they live in dark parts of the PPUR.
“We were informed that this spider is only seen in tropical countries. Let’s not attempt to see it inside the PPUR as it would be difficult to see since it dwells in deep gaps and fissures. Let’s be happy with the thought that it was found there,” she said. (PNA)