WARNING: This spider is too cute for you to handle!

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Monday 8 April 2019 17:50

Meet Sitticus saltator. He's only 2.5 mm long. He's just had his hair cut by his Mum for his first day of school.
"The other kids sure are bigger than me".

"I better start taking some notes with my shiny new pencil".

There are not many spiders with a cephalothorax bigger than their abdomen, it looks like a head on legs. And boy can they jump. Actually it's more like a bounce. Such little characters.

OK enough mucking about, this spider though. Could it be any cuter?! I have only seen it twice before, back in 2014. In Sussex, it's known only from Camber Sands and Climping Dunes. It's nationally scarce and a dune specialist (mainly) and hasn't been seen at East Head since 1971 as far as I can tell. We saw three yesterday, all found by suction sampler. If you think the above photos are cute, you might just lose it when you watch this video of it cleaning its face. You have been warned!

Yesterday I started a survey for the National Trust at East Head with Lee Walther and a team of trainee volunteers. I said we should look out for Phlegra fasciata as I know Chris Bentley found it on a bioblitz a few years back. We found five! Having only seen one before at Rye Harbour, I was very pleased by this. This females of this nationally rare dune specialist are like a furry little humbug.

And another one that Chris had there a few years back, Crustulina sticta. We had one of these in the dune slack. Another nationally scarce species.

I actually had nine new spiders for the year and two were lifers! I didn't identify these until I got home. They were another coastal specialist which we recorded on the saltmarsh by sieving tidal litter, Zelotes electus (nationally scarce) which was recorded on the site back in 2007.

And also known from the site was Ceratinopsis romana, a nationally rare coastal species. This sieved from Marram litter on the mobile dunes. 

I ended the day on 151 spiders in all. Others new for the year were: Pardosa proxima (NS), Stemonyphantes lineatus, Walckenaeria vigilax and Cheiracanthium erraticum.

But there's a lot more than spiders there! The commonest bee by far was Colletes cunicularius which Mike Edwards tells me is likely to be a first for West Sussex! Here is a male, they were feeding on gorse and willow.

And what I'm pretty sure were their burrows. There were lots of females buzzing around here, a long way from where we saw the males.

My third lifer for the day though was a real surprise. We sieved this huge Broscus cephalotes from a pile of tidal debris, it's more of a surprise that I could see 1300+ species of beetle without seeing one of these to be fair. We do have very little of this habitat in Sussex though. What a beast though!

Later on in the mobile dunes, I sieved another one from Marram litter. I was convinced that it was dead but it wasn't! It's front two pairs of legs were clamped together, holding tightly to a Marram grass stem, while its back pair of legs were held backwards at 45 degrees. The head was back and jaws were wide open. It was utterly motionless as we took photos. Then it dropped off and ran away, an amazing experience!

And a new 10 km square for the awesome Rhombic Leatherbug! What a day! I can't wait until the next visit.

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