Neobrettus – A new discovery from India (West Bengal), 2018
My patience, perseverance, hard work, determination, focus, sacrifice and love for Mother Nature has today brought me this excellence wherein I got the opportunity to record for the first time the nesting and oophagy by the nesting females of the genus Neobrettus Wanless 1984 from India.
Javed Ahmed, David E. Hill, Indranil Banerjee, Rajashree Khalap, Richard J. Pearce & Krishna Mohan
Neobrettus with its 6 described species of small spartaeine salticids are found across South & South East Asia. However for factors like extremely small size & cryptic coloration, the natural history of these cute little spiders, has been relatively observed & studied less. Hence, we know nothing about their habits, behavior & distribution across the region.
The Discovery of Lucas & the Behind-The-Curtain scenes:
My field observations started from early Feb of 2017 in a lesser known fruit orchard of Bengal in India. Consisting mostly of perennial fruiting trees to include mango and plantain, I observed that this particular Neobrettus found shelter, hunted and bred on the broad, dried leaves of banana plants, which they apparently seemed to prefer as a microhabitat.
Extremely challenging subject due to its size which was not more than 2.5-3.5 mm, they gave me a tough time. But then, what is the charm if there is no challenge? I observed that the females had striped body and the males were darker in color. The females had a distinct white tuft of hair on their front foot. And the skewed sex ratio was too obvious, to each male I could observe around twenty females in the colony.
I found them to be extremely shy or that is what I think, as I could never capture their courtship & mating behavior. However, I found that each of the female produced a cluster of 12-17 eggs which were laid on a thin layer of silk spun on the surface of a leaf. Once the egg sac was completed, the cute female Neobrettus perched on top of it, often making clockwise and counter-clockwise turns in place, or turning to face the egg cluster below them. Careful mothers-to-be, these females never left their egg sac or to pursue prey during the several weeks that it took for their eggs to hatch and their spiderlings to emerge. But, but …I observed them feeding on 1-2 of their own eggs. Was it hunger or trying to finish off the infertile eggs or some other factor, only Mother Nature knows.
After around two weeks of hatching, the spiderlings underwent their first molting. The cute Neobrettus mom gives birth to a bunch of cuties and it’s an extreme pleasure as a photographer to observe the mother child bonding.
So why Lucas?
Have any of you seen Lucas- the cute little anime spider character making music on YouTube? One of the team members found this Neobrettus as cute as the anime character Lucas and rightly named it so…but for me, my Neobrettus is my lucky Lucas…who knew it would present me an international forum to showcase my hard work, grit & determination!
And the Feelings-
Around 15 months of hard work across the seasons gave me this blessed moment where I find myself amongst a team of learned arachnologist, scientist & biologist. Each moment when I see my name on the newspapers or the science paper or the twitter, I bow my head to Mother Nature …for Thou I am here, for Thou I shall work, for Thou I would keep loving these little cute creatures.
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