|Genetic diversity of mygalomorph spiders of Western Ghats using DNA barcoding
|Funding agency: DST- SERB Grant (2020- 23) CRG/2018/004708
|Principal Investigator: Dr.Sunil Jose K, Sanctioned amount 39.76 lakhs
|Diversity of Theraphosid Spiders in the Western Ghats of Kerala (Araneae: Theraphosidae)
Funding Agency: UGC Major Research Project 2013-17 F.No. 42-512/2013 SR.
|Principal Investigator: Dr.Sunil Jose K, sanctioned amount -11.62 lakhs.
The Western Ghats are home to a variety of primitive and endemic spider species. Moreover, they are very localized and have restricted migration. The tarantula diversity project identified 19 species belonging to the genera Annandaliella, Chilobrachys, Haploclastus, Neoheterophrictus, Poecilotheria, Sahydroaraneus, and Thrigmopoeus. Fifty percent of the species surveyed are endemic to the Western Ghats.
Among the major achievements is the discovery of four new theraphosid species in the Western Ghats. Annandaliella nigra sp. nov. was discovered in Thattekkad's forest area near the Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary. Haploclastus devamatha Prasanth and Jose, 2014 is a beautiful theraphosid spider with bluish reflections that was discovered in the Kollam District's Kulathupuzha and Achenkovil regions. Neoheterophrictus chimminiensis Jose, 2017 is another new species discovered in Thrissur District's Chimmini Wildlife Sanctuary. Another new species, Sahydroaraneus sebastiani Jose, 2017, was discovered beneath decaying logs in moist deciduous forests in Chimmini wildlife reserve.
Several poorly described species are also redescribed during the study. Annandaliella pectinifera Gravely, 1935 is common in central Kerala, mostly collected from Kottayam district. Annandaliella travancorica Hirst, 1909 is known from most parts of Kerala, including south, north and central parts. Haploclastus kayi Gravely, 1915 was previously known only from Parambikulam. Poecilotheria striata Pocock, 1895 was collected from Thattekkad.
Poecilotheria hanumavilasumica Smith, 2004 is being reported for the first time from the Chinnar area. This broadens its distribution westward from India's Rameshwaram Island, Ramanthapuram, and Mandapam.Several important places with a relatively higher number of theraphosid spiders were discovered during the study.Seven theraphosid spider species are recorded from Kerala during the study, including Chilobrachys fimbriatus, Haploclastus kayi, Poecilotheria hanumavilasumica, Poecilotheria regalis, Poecilotheria rufilata, Poecilotheria striata and Thrigmopoeus truculentus.
The current study concentrated exclusively on the taxonomy of these tarantulas. Additional research on their ecology and behaviour is necessary to conserve these spiders. Tarantulas are extremely specialized and have a limited range of movement. Construction activities and flooding of forest regions caused by new dams obliterate the spiders' limited habitats, resulting in their extinction. The conservation of the Western Ghats' pristine forests should get increased attention to avoid their destruction owing to biological and human-caused factors.