Sunday, 4 December 2016

Dicranopalpus ramosus - First for Skye!

Had my first day of work up here today, clearing up a double garage/general dumping ground. Took a good few hours but now the floor is clear and everything is on shelves again. Gardening equipment in one area, timber in another, paints all together, boards and sheets in another area, power tools together, electrical stuff all together etc quote the boss, "blimey, that's about a billion times better. You could fit a car in here now!" (erm no, not in my nicely tidied garage y'bugger!) Anyway, throughout the whole process I didn't spy a single solitary spider, woodlouse or mouse. Not even a good old Pholcus!

Aimee to the rescue once more - after popping outside for a quick late-night rollie she came back in blabbering on about harvestmen clustered around the security light. I went out for a quick look and was genuinely amazed to discover four Dicranopalpus ramosus staring back at me. This harvestman is usually instantly recognisable by it's utterly distinctive resting posture - legs stretched straight out sideways from the body. Combined with the obviously forked pedipalp (it looks as if it's holding a gun in each hand, well kinda!) this is a truly easy species to identify. 

So why was I amazed at the sight of this harvestman? Well because they are a southern European species that was first found in Britain at Bournemouth in 1957. Since then they have been steadily moving northwards through the Midlands and into northern England. But all the way up to Skye?!?! Seemed ridiculously far north to me. I jumped on the British Spiders website and was quite surprised to see records scattered through southern Scotland plus a couple of northern records from east of Inverness. I submitted my record and added this pic as 'proof'

Utterly distinctive resting posture! 

And the very next morning (ie now as I'm typing this) the scheme have added a dot on their distribution map for the species. Rapid work indeed! Have a look at the scheme's page here and if you see a harvestman sitting like the one in the pic whack your record through too. Easy! 

This may be the very first record of Dicranopalpus ramosus for north-western Scotland. Quite how it made it across to the top end of Skye is puzzling, I know they have long legs that were made for walking, but surely the Skye Bridge is a bit of a barren habitat to cross? Maybe they hitched a ride in stock brought up by delivery vehicles coming to the hotel? Who knows, not me. 

So that's now a grand total of two Arachnids for the tally, the other being Nemastoma bimaculatum, also a harvestman, from under a log in Uig Woods a couple of days back. Slow start ey?

EDIT: Thanks to a heads-up from Brian Eversham via FB, it appears that the species of Dicranopalpus we have in Britain is in fact two species! Dicranopalpus caudatus Dresco, 1948 has been recorded in England (several specimens collected between 1957 and 1984 but possibly not since), and presumably has now been completely overrun by the invasive D.ramosus. Potentially it could still occur at low frequency in England. Judging by the image above, I have D.ramosus (note the dark 'bandit mask' around the eyes, very much a pro-ramosus feature) but a real eye-opener to even learn of the second species' existence here! Many thanks to Brian.

1 comment:

  1. My mate Bob Dawson lives on St Marys, Scilly. He put up an image of a Dicranopalpus on FB which screamed 'different' to me. I suggested he check it for caudatus, he sent it off to a specialist WAS caudatus! Top marks, Bob - D.caudatus is back on the list. Just gotta see what all the other Dicranopalpus are out there. Annoyingly I've seen several whilst there...have to go back and check sometime!