We found a spider new to the UK on Brighton Beach!

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Sunday 11 June 2023 16:44

Last year, I started monitoring the plants and invertebrates of a shingle translocation and creation project at Black Rock, Brighton carried out by Brighton & Hove City Council. Today, Karen and I were suction sampling an area having just found Pseudeuophrys lanigera (which I thought had to be obseleta but it wasn't). Buzzing off this high, Karen pointed to a jumping spider in the tray and asked "what's that?" There were three individuals in the tray from one suction sample. It was clearly a Heliophanus but not one I recognised. For a start, it had very obvious and striking black legs covered in white dots, as well as white-spotted black palps. I said it had to be Heliophanus auratus, a rare shingle species, as that was the only option (or so I thought). Which would have been a county first and a lifer. I was specifically suction-sampling the bases of large clumps of Yellow Horned-poppy. Here are some more shots of this incredible-looking little jumping spider.

I rushed home to look at one, only to find I had only collected females from two different areas but several were adult (actually, I didn't see any males). Two of these were hard to see as the epigynes were blocked but one was very clear. It was not auratus. I dissected the epigyne (below) and then it struck me - this must be a species new to the UK!!! I mean, it's obvious from just the general look of it. The palps aren't yellow for a start! I said at the time, the legs looked like nothing I had seen on a UK Heliophanus.

I jumped into the excellent website, Spiders of Europe (have a look here for a relevant species account) and closed in on species that were present just over the Channel but not yet in the UK. There it was, Heliophanus kochii. There is some more info here that helped, which stated it's a species that likes warm places. Another species moving north due to climate change then and looking at the European distribution, it likes warm and dry places, rather than being a shingle/coastal specialist. So, expect this to be spreading through the UK soon.

The patterns on the abdomen & the cephalothorax, the palps, the legs and the epigyne, especially the ducts, all added up. As did the dense covering of hairs on the abdomen missing from the very rear behind the last two white spots. I rang Richard Gallon and he was in broad agreement it was this species after seeing the shots. Now it might be prudent to wait until we have run it passed a European spider expert before calling it but I have never been the most patient of people. So I am calling it as my first (well joint first with Karen) spider new to the UK and my 2nd UK first! What a result. It's also my 526th UK spider.

Here is the habitat shot from the first encounter. One area of shingle created several years ago just west of the sauna place (I assume by the Council) but we found three more in area B (including an adult female) that was definitely created by the Council about 100 m behind where this photo was taken.

Now, any questions along the likes of "is it dangerous?" can get in the sea. It's about 5mm long maximum and is about as dangerous as our other 40 or so jumping spiders. It mostly likely ballooned across the Channel and colonised naturally, given the location. How cool is that? Very happy indeed to have found this.

4 Response to "We found a spider new to the UK on Brighton Beach!"

Gibster Says:

That's great! Well done buddy, I'm very pleased for you (both!) :)

Jenny Says:


Anonymous Says:

This is wonderful!! Thank you for sharing!

Matt Prince Says:

Congratulations Graeme! A very nice addition to the UK list, and also well done on the gruelling peaks, very jealous of your success with Pardosa trailli - I have turned a lot of rocks over for that one and still not found it. Have you looked for Pelecopsis radiciola at Heyshott Down? - hasn't been seen there since Bristowe in '52, the scutum'd females are pretty distinctive and it's approaching peak season (july)

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