If you go down to your local brownfield site (having first gained permission from the land owner, of course) chances are you will not see this attractive spider. Unless that brownfield site is West Thurrock PFA Lagoons (West Thurrock Marshes) in Essex or Swanscombe Peninsula in Kent, however, as these are the only two sites from which the spider is currently known.
All about the Distinguished jumping spider
Sitticus distinguendus is a spider in the family Salticidae; known as the Jumping Spiders. This family has only 37 members in the UK, but worldwide it is the largest spider family containing over five thousand species.
|© Peter Harvey|
They have a very large front pair of eyes, and are thought to possess the best vision for an invertebrate after cephalopods (octopus and relatives). This vision, along with an ability to jump, allows them to actively hunt their prey during the day. Their keen eyesight also plays a part in courtship, where males can undertake elaborate dances to woo a female (and avoid being eaten!). A better known member of the family in this country is the Zebra spider, Salticus scenicus, which can be found hunting on sunlit fences and walls throughout most of the country.
Why does it need conserving?
As a conservation priority, Sitticus distinguendus has been placed on the UK list of Biodiversity Action Plan species. The two sites at which it has been found are both within the Thames Gateway – Europe’s largest growth area – and both are brownfield sites – land that is prioritised for development by planning policy. Brownfield sites are not merely derelict pieces of land littered with the remains of old buildings. Often nature has reclaimed these abandoned places and they are now hidden oases for wildlife, in the heart of our towns and cities.
The Kent home of the spider is earmarked for development some time this decade. The Essex home of the spider, home also to many other rare invertebrates, has planning permission to build a huge warehouse and lorry park on West Thurrock Marshes.
On February 22nd 2008, Buglife will be trying to gain permission through the courts for a legal challenge to the development.
West Thurrock Marshes - home to a wealth of wildlife
© Greg Hitchcock
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