• Last week, a group of arachnologists from Thrissur came across a spider that had never been reported before.
  • Hidden in the crevices of the bark of teak trees, Cocalus lacinia are hairy, yellow-brown spiders with a distinctive v-shaped mark on their head.
  • They happen to be closely related to a species of spider in Australia, adding to the theory that the continents were once united.
  • Indeed, jostling for column space among reports of new snakes, reptiles and frogs discovered, are a particularly delightful and large group of spiders called jumping spiders, because well, they jump rather than crawl.
  • In the past year, at least five new species of jumping spiders have been discovered from different parts of India.
  • Jumping spiders are the most abundant and diverse family of spiders in the world with more than 5,200 species described so far, found not just in forests but in urban built-up landscapes too. Laboratories around the world have used them for a range of behavioural experiments, especially to understand systematics and evolution.
  • These little arachnids are also known for their astonishing array of cognitive abilities and are considered model organisms to study behaviour, as well as answer theoretical questions about communication, foraging, courtship, mating and parental care.
  • But arachnologists will tell you how it’s often difficult to study them: when they are confined together in close proximity in labs they may dine on their companions, given as they are to cannibalism.
  • The male jumping spider can be brilliantly coloured, even iridescent, and exhibits elaborate courtship dances, the most famous being that of the peacock jumping spider found in Australia and now a YouTube sensation (with 7.3 million views to date).
  • They move and wave their legs in elaborate movements, and even tap their feet.
  • Of the 45,000 different species of spiders documented across the world, more than 1,400 have been found in India so far.
  • These numbers seem large, almost mind-boggling, but most natural historians and spider taxonomists believe there are far more spider types that we don’t know about yet simply because many parts of the world are yet to be sampled for the creatures.
  • In India, there are are far too few of us out in the field looking for them — but you can be sure that there’s definitely an eight-eyed creature living somewhere in your house, office or garden.