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Recently Discovered Spider Species Listed as Critically Endangered

Sep 05, 2016 05:32 AM EDT
Female Cave Spider Turinyphia cavernicola
This is a female Turinyphia cavernicola from Algar do Carvão, Azores.
(Photo : Pedro Cardoso/CC-BY 4.0/EurekAlert)

Scientists from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) Spider and Scorpion Specialist Group, and the University of Azores' Azorean Biodiversity Group have classified a recently discovered tiny, cave-dwelling spider endemic to the Azores as critically endangered.

According to a press release, the spider specie, dubbed as Turinyphia cavernicola, is pale, two-millimeter spider with long legs and large eyes. It was discovered in 2008 in a single island within the Azorean archipelago in Portugal. Due to their troglobitic lifestyle, not much information about their distribution throughout the year is available. Turinyphia cavernicola prefers to live underground, preferably humid lava tubes and volcanic pits, where they build sheet webs in small holes and crevices on the walls of the cave.

Using a specialized novel publication type feature, known as Species Conservation Profile, the researchers addressed the societal challenges in ecology, evolution and environment faced by the Turinyphia cavernicola. This profile will also be used to provide scholarly credit and citation for the IUCN Red List species page.

 After an extensive survey of the 15 caves in Terceira Island, the researchers discovered that Turinyphia cavernicola only lives in three caves: Algar do Carvão, Gruta da Malha and Furna de Santa Maria. The Algar do Carvão is the only cave among the three that is home to a sustainable population of the spiders.

Their findings, published in the Biodiversity Data Journal, also showed that the spiders are at high risk of habitat loss due to the increasing tourist activities, road construction and pasture intensification near and inside the caves.

Based on the assumption that the spiders originally have significantly greater populations, the scientists inferred a 20 percent decline in their population with about 5 percent of possible decline in the future. The decline of the spider population in the area in the last 50 years is linked with anthropogenic disturbances on the caves, including changes in the humidity inside the cave and availability of resources due to the clearing of the humid native forest.

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