Rameshwaram Ornamental Spider | WWF India

Rameshwaram Ornamental Spider

Scientific Name: Poecilotheria hanumavilasumica

The Rameshwaram ornamental spider or Rameshwaram parachute spider is a tree dwelling species endemic to Tamil Nadu’s Ramanthapuram district, in southern India. Named after the Rameshwaram islands, where it was discovered in 2004, in the Hanumavilasum temple by Andrews Smith, today this species is fighting for survival. In 2008, it was listed as critically endangered in the IUCN Redlist*.

This spider has light and dark brown stripes across its body and legs, characteristic of all spiders in the genus Poecilotheria, which give it excellent camouflage on trees. They can be distinguished from others in this genus by a yellow colouration on the underside of the front legs. Males grow up to 4.3 cm in length; whereas the females grow to 6.7 cm. Males live to one breeding season after maturity and barely make it to another, whereas females have been observed nesting in tree holes for over 3 years. They rarely catch insects, their main prey, with the help of webs. Instead, they attack them from their place of hiding and inject paralysing venom.

This species faces extinction mainly due to loss of its natural habitat to developmental activities. Their habitat is restricted to a few tamarind, casuarina and mixed dry deciduous tree and palm plantations on the Rameshwaram island, covering a small area of 100 sq km, though actual occupancy of the populations is only 6 sq km. Only 8 subpopulations, each varying from 4 to 78 individuals, are known to exist in 13 heavily fragmented locations. In 2006, a large population of these spiders was wiped away as two plantations supporting more than 70 adults were razed to accommodate the area’s increasing tourists.

Sources:

1. *Siliwal, M., Molur, S. & Daniel, B.A. 2008. Poecilotheria hanumavilasumica. In: IUCN 2010. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2010.4. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 29 April 2011.
2. http://www.zoosprint.org/ZooPrintMagazine/2008/December/Full_Magazine.pdf
3. http://www.arkive.org/rameshwaram-parachute-spider/
 
	© Zoological Survey of India (ZSI)
Rameshwaram ornamental spider
© Zoological Survey of India (ZSI)
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