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Sunday, April 14, 2019

Learning to love the tiny Tower Hamlets jumping spider

One article we didn't have time to get to on this morning's Radio Wales paper review was this one in the Observer, about a project aiming to record and catalogue creepy-crawlies indigenous to London.

We are used to the occasional announcement of new species discovered in remote and exotic parts of the world, but it seems that we are harbouring rare species closer to home as well.

They say that London’s eight royal parks are home to a spectacular range of creepy-crawlies, and over the next few weeks these creatures will be the focus of a major campaign:

A project named Mission: Invertebrate will highlight the importance of worms, gnats, spiders, slugs and grasshoppers in maintaining the health of Britain’s wildlife and natural habitats.

The event is part of an international initiative, City Nature Challenge, held at the end of April and involving the inhabitants of more than 160 cities around the world – including Bristol, Glasgow, Liverpool, Leicester, Manchester and Newcastle.

The aim of the challenge is to record as much wildlife as possible on city streets and in parks. The main effort in London will be on the insects of the royal open spaces: Hyde, Green, Richmond, Greenwich, St James’s, Bushy and Regent’s parks and Kensington Gardens.

The claim that London is a hotbed of invertebrate activity is supported by the number of species to which the city has put its name. These include the Tower Hamlets spider (Macaroeris nidicolens), a jumping spider identified in Mile End Park in 2002; the Bushy gnat (Grzegorzekia bushyae), a species of fungus gnat discovered in Bushy Park in 2016; and the London Underground mosquito (Culex Pipiens Molestus), a genetically distinct subspecies of mosquito that has evolved in the deep tunnels of the tube over the past 100 years.

The paper says that more than 4,720 species of invertebrates have been recorded in London’s royal parks – which cover 5,000 acres, most of them former royal hunting grounds. These include more than 1,000 species of fly in Bushy Park, including the Bushy gnat; more than 100 types of spider in Brompton Cemetery (also run by the royal parks), including the Tower Hamlets spider; while it is estimated that Richmond Park has more than 400,000 ant hills that are home to some 3 billion ants:

Invertebrates are crucial to the capital’s wildlife. They provide food for other insects as well as for birds and fish; they help pollinate London’s flowers and plants; and they break down organic waste. Examples of the latter, the detritivore insects, include the dung beetle, of which there are 14 species – including the spectacular minotaur beetle – in Richmond Park alone. 

This has to be a future project for Richard Attenborough.
Was it you or the Observer who implied that spiders are insects?

The Observer
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