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Students discover elusive male spider

15 May 2018

Opadometa sarawakensis spider

Students on a field course in Borneo have made a remarkable discovery, describing the elusive male Opadometa sarawakensis spider for the first time.

The males and females of the Opadometa spider look nothing alike, making it difficult for scientists to discover both sexes of the species.

Until recently the Opadometa sarawakensis spider was only known by the female of the species, recognised by its striking red and blue abdomen, but the group of students uncovered the mysterious male spider whilst completing a two-week field course at the Danau Girang Field Centre – a collaborative facility managed by Sabah Wildlife Department and Cardiff University.

Dr Benoit Goossens, Cardiff University and the Danau Girang Field Centre, said: “The students found a male spider hanging on the web of a female Opadometa sarawakensis. The male was quite striking and not at all similar to the female - it was a blend of orange, grey, black and silver.

“With the males and females differing so much in their appearance, it can be difficult to identify both sexes of the species, so we needed to gather enough evidence from our thorough field surveys in the area to prove that they were in fact the same species.

“It’s been quite a unique educational experience for the students. They came to the field centre to get hands-on experience of biological techniques but they have also taken part in a huge scientific discovery and advanced our knowledge of an elusive species.”

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The centre is a collaborative research and training facility based in Sabah, Malaysia.