Report from the field: The hunt for Habronattus

 In August, we headed down to Southern Arizona and to Sonora, Mexico for two weeks of spider collecting in the desert heat. The team on this trip included Wayne Maddison, Sam Evans (PhD student), Heather Proctor (University of Alberta) and myself, Geneviève Leduc-Robert (MSc student). Our mission was to catch as many Habronattus specimens as possible, and any other interesting salticids we found along the way!

The team, on Mt.Hopkins (from your left): Heather Proctor, Wayne Maddison, Sam Evans and Geneviève Leduc-Robert.maddison3.th The Arizona desert, where many Habronattus await.Arizonaecosystem

Habronattus is a diverse genus of jumping spiders predominantly from North America. They are studied for their elaborate courtship behaviours and beautifully ornamented males. We collected specimens from different habitats near Tucson and Yuma. It is not unusual to have several species of Habronattus living near each other in different microhabitats. H. tarsalis and H. pyrrithrix could be found near each other on different grasses. Other species, like H. pugillis sunbathed on rocky slopes, while H. icenoglei is mostly found on leaf liter.

As visitors to the harsh desert, we managed to avoid surprising any rattlesnakes (phew), but we did endure countless stabs from spiny cacti. Our most unexpected encounter however, occurred on our way to Mexico. Along the desert road was a small dog walking on his own. His name, we decided, was Ticky (because of the inhabitants we found his fur). We hydrated him and pointed him out to local patrol before continuing on our way. We hope Ticky survived his cross-country journey too!

The Arizona desert is prickly and poisonous. You are always looking a few steps ahead for cactus needles and rattlesnakesrattlesnake Heather and Tickyticky

We stayed at the beautiful CEDO (Centro Intercultural de Estudios de Desiertos Y Océanos) while in Puerto Peñasco, Sonora. The biological station was right between the Sea of Cortez and expansive estuary home to a couple of species of Habronattus. A perfect location…

Beautiful Sea of Cortez and CEDO in Puerto Penasco, SonoraBeautiful Sea of Cortez and CEDO in Puerto Penasco, Sonora.

With the help of our guide, Abraham Meza López, we collected near an oyster farm along the Estero Morua and in another estuary, Estero Cerro Prieto. It’s there that we found not one but two undescribed species. Hopping along the salty grasses were red-faced and beige Habronattus. We called them “blondie” because of their pale hairs. Right next to blondie on the edge of the gullies was another undescribed group last spotted about a decade ago, “The Peñasco Beast”.

“Blondie”, an undescribed species found hear the Cerro Prieto Estuary."Blondie" pyrrithrix. An undescribed species found hear the Cerro Prieto Estuary

We returned to Vancouver with specimens representing each of our targeted species, including new and undescribed species. We are currently collecting transcriptome sequences from these specimens for a phylogenomic analysis to resolve the Habronattus phylogeny and detect patterns of hybridization.

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One thought on “Report from the field: The hunt for Habronattus

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