The long game

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Thursday 19 October 2023 19:22

One of the best things about writing this book on pan-species listing has been the research. This is mainly taking the form of travelling to distant lands to meet various listers that I have not yet had the pleasure to meet. And last weekend was such a trip. One of those long PSL weekends where I forgot nearly everything else in the world accept what I was doing. Almost as good as a holiday for the head.  Anyways, before I do a full write up of the weekend, I have to write this post separately as it would not do it justice to embed it within one of my larger posts. It's a story ten years in the making and concerns what is best described as being simultaneously my 3rd invertebrate, 2nd spider, 1st invertebrate and 1st spider, that I've had new for the UK. Confused? Me too.

I'll start at the beginning. Rewind nearly a decade and read read this post from a twitch to Cornwall to see a Hermit Thrush on the 31st October 2013. I draw your attention to the spider at the end...a very unusual looking Enoplognatha. Here she is again.


Unsurprisingly, the spider did not make it to maturity. In the last four years since befriending Tylan, we have spoke at length about trying to get back to the exact same section of wall at the car park at Long Rock. Now when I first got to Cornwall on Saturday and I went along the beach with Sally Luker to see the Sea Daffodils at Marazion Dunes, I realised that the car park we were in was the wrong one. Looking along the beach, it did seem that there had been some development here. The crumbly old wall I found the spider in was no longer there. It seemed even more like a long shot, so much so that it was the very last thing I did on Monday morning on the 16th October 2023 and even then I nearly didn't bother.

I ran the suction sampler through the sea defences by the car park, reaching down between the rocks. The vegetation was a mixture of Sea-beet, Bramble agg., Ribwort Plantain and large crucifers - nothing special. I took one suction sample and amazingly, ten years later, found an adult male in the first sample. In fact, there was an immature in there too. It's clearly been established in this area for at least a decade. So what is it?

Well, there is only one species of native Enoplognatha in the UK I have not seen, the rare oelandica, that has not been seen in the UK since 1997. It doesn't seem right for it. In the last couple of years, Tylan has been sent a few specimens of Enoplognatha mandibularis as adventives (and it's also established on the Channel Islands) so we were pretty sure it was going to be this and after looking at the spider in detail, it is indeed Enoplognatha mandibularis, new to the UK on 31st October 2013. How cool is that? My 536th UK spider and 372nd spider of the year! Here are a few more shots of it.

It's quite small, or at least variable in size. Heavily annulated legs and with very large chelicerae. A white v-shaped mark at the front of the abdomen and two white spots further back (making an inverted smiley face!) that's also visible on my 2013 spider (although that immature female is less pied and more tri-coloured). 

In the intervening period, I have added over 4000 species to my pan-species list! So much has changed in a decade. Oh, and ten years ago I would have lost it at seeing just one Inflatable Cornish Pasty or Portuguese Man o' War but they were everywhere at Long Rock.

2 Response to "The long game"

Gibster Says:

Pretty sure I told you at the time I didn't recognise it. Now we know why ;)

Graeme Lyons Says:

Ha ha, you don't even remember seeing it!

Post a Comment

Nature Blog Network