Application for Scientific Permit – Available for Public Comment
Public comment on the following application for a Scientific Research (Fauna) Permit is open until 13 March.
Applicant: Department of Entomology, Cornell University, New York, USA
Species/Taxon: Araneae: Sparassidae: Deleninae – Huntsman spiders
Location: Maria Island National Park, the periphery of Freycinet National Park, Mt Wellington, and in the Launceston and Liffey Forest Reserve areas.
Title of research: Patterns of Group-living in Huntsman Spiders
Aim of project: Sociality is extremely rare in spiders, yet Australia is home to the only three huntsman spider species that live in groups in the world. Patterns of sociality in the huntsman spiders are very different from that found in other social spiders. The goal of this project is to determine whether the Tasmanian species, Delena spenceri, is also found in complex family groups with prolonged associations between mothers and multiple clutches of her youngsters. If so, the information from this species would help resolve evolutionary questions about the origins and benefits of sociality in these spiders.
Justification: Huntsman spiders are iconic Australian fauna which are fascinating and, unfortunately, little appreciated. Greater knowledge about the native Tasmanian huntsman spiders will provide greater understanding of the spider's ecology, behaviour, and conservation. Working on reserved land is requested because these are the sites where the spiders are known to be located.
Maximum likely numbers of individuals involved: Best estimate is ~100 spiders of all ages from each species, with multiple individuals within each matrilineal colony.
Activities undertaken and methods: The activities involved on this project involve turning over small and moderate slabs of slate rocks to determine whether there are huntsman spiders (Delena spenceri) under them. If there are spiders, the rock is rapidly placed in a pillow case, so that the spiders can be collected in plastic vials and counted. For each colony, the age and sex of each spider will be estimated, the size of the rock measured, and the GPS coordinates taken. For Delena cancerides, which are found in retreats under the bark of dead wattles or certain gums, the trees will be inspected for spider silk. The spiders will be collected by removing bark and pushing it into a collecting bag, and spiders collected into plastic vials. Similar demographic and retreat data will be measured.
Fate of animals: Live spiders will be collected and transported to Cornell University for behavioural studies. Some 3rd legs will be removed for phylogenetic analysis.
Likely impact on species involved: Optimally, 20 colonies of D. spenceri and D. cancerides will be collected. Both of these are common spider species in Tasmania. The removal of this number of spiders from sites around Eastern Tasmania would be negligible for the spider species and for the habitat they are removed from. The impact on other animals using the habitats will be minised; rocks will be replaced in their original position and bark removal will be minised based on previous collecting experience of knowing where the spiders are likely to occur.