Monday, 24 November 2014

Nine new species of Crab Spiders from Africa.


Crab Spiders of the genus Mystaria are found in Africa from Guinea in the west to Ethiopia in the east and south to Cape Province in South Africa. They are ambush hunters, lying in wait for prey on plants in a wide variety of environments, from forest canopies to grasses to coastal wetlands.

In a paper published in the journal Zootaxa on 15 October 2014, Allet Honibull Lewis of the Department of Zoology & Entomology at the University of Pretoria and Ansie Dippenaar-Schoeman of the Department of Zoology & Entomology at the University of Pretoria and the ARC-Plant Protection Research Institute describe nine new species of Crab Spiders from across Africa, eight of them in the genus Mystaria, and one in a new genus, Leroya, which lives exclusively in the rainforest canopy. In addition they contend that the previously described genus Paramystaria is invalid, and move six species from this genus to Mystaria, and one species from Mystaria to Leroya.

The first new species described is named Mystaria budongo, in reference to the Budongo Forest of Uganda, where it was most abundant. The species is described from sixteen specimens collected in Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya and Uganda. All of the known specimens are male. Mystaria budongo is 2.7-2.9 mm in length, and has a pear-shaped carapace with an orange-yellow median band and horizontal black and brown bands. The legs are yellow. The species lives in the forest canopy.

Mystaria budongo male from Rwanda, Ibanda Makera (dorsal view). Honibull Lewis & Dippenaar-Schoeman (2014).

The second new species described is named Mystaria irmatrix, in honour of Allet Honibull Lewis’ mother. The species is described from 19 specimens collected in Mozambique and South Africa, including members of both sexes and juveniles. Females were 3.15-4.14 mm in length and either orange with black markings or black with orange markings. Males were smaller, at 2.50-3.13 mm in length, and orange or brown with black markings. The species was found living in trees in coastal woodlands and grasslands, along rivers and around sand dunes

Mystaria irmatrix female from Mozambique, Marracuene in antero-dorsal view. Honibull Lewis & Dippenaar-Schoeman (2014).

The third new species is named Mystaria lindaicapensis, honouring Linda Wiese who collected the first specimen, and referring to the Cape region of South Africa where it is found (in both Eastern and Western Cape Provinces). The species is described from one female and two male specimens. The female is 3.9 mm in length and brown with orange markings. The males are 2.78 and 2.87 mm in length, and blackish brown with orange-red markings. Two of the specimens were collected from a garden the third from woodland.

Mystaria lindaicapensis female from South Africa, Jeffreys Bay in antero-dorsal view. Honibull Lewis & Dippenaar-Schoeman (2014).

The fourth new species described is named Mystaria mnyama, meaning ‘black’ in Zulu, a reference to the colouration of areas on the face and around the eyes. The species is described from one male and one female specimen, collected from grass and shrubs in Tembe Elephant Park in KwaZulu-Natal Province, South Africa. The female is 2.64 mm in length and copper-red in colour with dark facial markings and a lighter abdomen with two dark spots. The male is 2.29 mm in length with a dark copper-black body with lighter markings.

Mystaria mnyama female from South Africa, Tembe Elephant Parkinantero-dorsal view. Honibull Lewis & Dippenaar-Schoeman (2014).

The fifth new species described is named Mystaria oreadae, in reference to the Oreads (Mountain Nymphs) of Greek mythology, as the species was found exclusively in mountainous regions. The species is described from four female specimens, three from Nord Province in Rwanda and one from Orientale Region in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The specimens are 2.74-3.53 mm in length, red to orange copper with lighter or darker markings and a pale carapace.

Mystaria oreadae female from Rwanda, Rwankuba in antero-dorsal view. Honibull Lewis & Dippenaar-Schoeman (2014).

The sixth new species is named Mystaria savannensis, meaning ‘Savanah-dweller’. The species is named from 111 specimens collected in Zambia, Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe, including males, females and juveniles. The females are 3.15-5.08 mm in length and orange red or dark brown with a pale abdomen with a darker central stripe. The males are 2.50-3.27 mm in length and copper brown in colour with a darker abdomen. The species was found in trees, shrubs and leaf litter across a wide area of southeast Africa.

Mystaria savannensis female from South Africa, Soutpansberg in antero- dorsal views. Honibull Lewis & Dippenaar-Schoeman (2014).

The seventh new species is named Mystaria soleil, meaning ‘Sun’ in French, due to its bright yellow colour. The species is described from 42 specimens collected in Masindi District, Uganda and Western Province, Kenya. The females are 3.13-3.48 mm in length, the males 2.46-2.70 mm, females are pale brown with darker bands and spots and yellow legs, males also have a yellow abdomen.

Mystaria soleil female from Kenya, Kakamega in dorsal view. Honibull Lewis & Dippenaar-Schoeman (2014).

The eighth new species described is named Mystarias takesbyi, in honour of Eduard Stakesby, the husband of Allet Honibull Lewis. The species is described from 15 specimens from Ghana, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Liberia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda. Females are 2.72-4.07 mm in length and copper-red, orange or brown in colour, usually with a darker central band and lighter patches. Males are 2.34–2.76 mm in length and a uniform dark copper red, with a lighter abdomen with faint black marks. The species was found primarily in the rainforest canopy, but was also found in leaf litter.

Mystaria stakesbyi female from Ghana, Legonin dorsal view. Honibull Lewis & Dippenaar-Schoeman (2014).

The final new species is placed in a new genus, Leroya, named in honour of John and Astri Leroy; John Leroy collected a specimen of Mystaria unicolor, at Rwankwi in the Belgian Congo (now the Democratic Rebulic of Congo) in 1951, when he was six years old, which is one of the specimens used to re-assign this species to the new genus (becoming Leroya unicolor). It is given the specific name Leroya silva, which means forest in Latin. The species is described from nine specimens from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Uganda. Females are 3.89-4.22 mm in length and copper brown in colour with a metallic sheen. The males are 3.04–3.92 mm in length and copper or blackish-turquoise in colour, also with a metallic sheen. The species was found exclusively in the rainforest canopy.

Leroya silva from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mayombe, male in dorsal view. Honibull Lewis & Dippenaar-Schoeman (2014).

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