Spider Sunday: Nigma walckenaeri

These coming weeks I’ll be blogging about spiders! Yes, those lovable, eight-legged creatures 😉 To start it off just right, I’m presenting you Nigma walckenaeri, sometimes called the green leaf web spider. The common name sums it all up: It is a spider that makes a web on a green leaf. These spiders are small and green, so hardly noticeable. I spotted two females just outside my backyard on individual ivy leaves. On their home leaf, they make a funnel-like web in which they will sit and wait for food to arrive. Their web is made of very fine spider silk. To produce this fine silk, they have a cribellum, which causes the silk to come out in very thin threads. Insects get trapped in these fine threads without the need of a sticky fluid. Once an unfortunate piece-of-meat lands on it, they are quick to jump on their prey and haul them inside to eat. I was just taking pictures when that happened, so I made a video which you can find below. It is easy to distinguish males and females, in that males have a brownish head with a green body and females are entirely green/yellowish.

I sometimes wonder why the scientific name is what it is. Scientific names consist of a genus (Nigma in this case) and a species (walckenaeri). Everytime a new species is discovered, the discoverer may suggest a Latinised name. Often, this will only be a species name; the genus is already known and it is a matter of determining in which genus the newly discovered specimen fits. In the case of our spider today, the discoverer (Carl Friedrich Roewer), honored the entomologist and arachnologist Charles Athanase Walckenaer by naming this spider after him. Interestingly, the genus name, Nigma, was named later. This because at the time, scientists believed that our spider and related species belonged to a different genus. Over time, other scientists determined that they were quite different from the rest and decided to split and rename the different groups. The species name as suggested by the discoverers remained.

I hope you will join me the coming weeks in exploring other spiders!

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