The world's tiniest nutcrackers

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Wednesday, 13 March 2019 20:09

Less than two weeks ago Matt Prince put up a photo of the palps of the weird money spider Sintula corniger. I have always wanted to see this nationally scarce spider because of its strange tackle but it doesn't occur in Sussex. Until today that is! Jane and I had a good look around Burton Pond and we had a go with the suction-sampler in the Sphagnum and Tussock-sedge there. Sintula corniger is the 391st spider recorded on any Sussex Wildlife Trust reserve and it's entirely new to both counties!

If you can't see what is going on there, here is the illustration of the palp from Roberts. It has a backwards-pointing appendage like no other spider, with hairs and lumps all over the place. I think it looks like a tiny pair of nutcrackers. Wait, would that be a pair of pair of nutcrackers? Given what the male palps actually are, you could equally call these a pair of crackers nuts. What does all that extra stuff actually achieve?!

New to West Sussex (but not Sussex as a whole) was the nationally scarce Notioscopus sarcinatus sucked from Sphagnum. Even more scarce nationally, this seems quite strongly tied to Sphagnum, the only other place I have seen it being in a similar habitat at Old Lodge. Identifiable in the field by the male's 'finger'like' projection off the back of the cephalothorax which you can see in this old photo.

All in all we added nine new spiders to the site (an increase of 10% to 99 species). Three of these were nationally scarce. I end the day on 105 spiders for the year having seen over 15% of the British list so far.

Oh and we also added the carabid Agonum sexpunctatum to the site on an an area of recently scraped Bracken being restored to heath! This nationally scarce species is usually fairly typical on black, peaty, wet heaths but is always nice to see. Great to see scarce species colonising the recently created habitat.

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