Website News Archive

Website News Archive

Artist's Residency - posted 06/09

Artist<br />
Sheila Tilmouth watching D. plantarius at Redgrave and Lopham FenIn this ground-breaking project D.plantarius has become the UK's first spider to have its own artist in residence! Arts Council England awarded a grant to Yorkshire artist Sheila Tilmouth to work alongside the D. plantarius conservation project at Redgrave and Lopham Fen during summer 2009. The residency has been supported by the Suffolk Wildlife Trust, Buglife, The British Arachnological Society and the Natural History Museum. It aims to bring the story of this spectacular spider, and the more general messages it conveys about the amazing lives of spiders and the plight of wetland species, to a new, wider audience. Click here to read Sheila's blog and see some of her work on D. plantarius.

Sheila Tilmouth will be exhibiting work on the Fen Raft Spider at the Visitor Centre at Redgrave and Lopham Fen on the 24th, 25th and 31st of October and the 1st of November 2009. Click here for details. Watch this space for future venues for the exhibition.

Spot the Spider! - posted 08/09

This web challenge, to pinpoint individuals of D. plantarius photographed against their natural backgrounds, produced over 2,000 responses in the first month. It is part of a project on the colour banding polymorphism in this species, investigating the genetic basis of the polymorphism and reasons for its persistence. To play 'spot the spider' click here, and for more information on the project click here.

British Arachnological Society survey work in 2009 - posted 09/09

Throughout summer 2009 voounteers from the British Arachnological Society (BAS) have been helping with the search for hitherto undiscovered UK populations of D. plantarius. Survey work has covered potentially appropriate sites in the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads, the chalk stream fens of Hamshire and the south coast grazing marshes. This work forms part of an evaluation of the need to translocate this species to new sites to ensure its future in the UK.

Although no new D. plantarius populations were discovered, the surveys generated some exciting records of other species, mostly notably of Enoplognatha tecta (E. caricis) from a Suffolk site. This is only the third UK record for this wetland species, the others being from a Dorset site in 1888 and 1974.

Drought grips Redgrave and Lopham Fen - posted 10/09

dried-out pond at Redgrave and Lopham Fen in September 2009The severe late summer 2009 drought in East Anglia left the D. plantarius population at Redgrave and Lopham Fen virtually without standing water for over six weeks. Although the hydrology of this National Nature Reserve was restored in 1999 by by ending artesian abstraction from the underlying chalk aquifer (click here for further information), it remains very vulnerable to drought. Drought curtails the spider's breeding season and reduces growth rates. This in turn results in the porduction of smaller broods of young the following year. This is the third severe drought to hit the fen since 1999. It raises concerns about the long-term future of the spider at this site if, as predicted, the frequency and severity of summer droughts increases. R&LFen_MFnew_pools09.jpgThe Suffolk Wildlife Trust, which manages the reserve, have obtained funding through the HLS Scheme to deepen some of the existing ponds and create chains of new ponds radiating out from the existing centres of the spider population. It is hoped that this will both safeguard the population during summer droughts and encourage range expansion into areas that have suitable vegetation but have been without suitable ponds.




New Dolomedes plantarius populations discovered in continental Europe - posted 10/09

We have heard of the discovery of three new populations of D. plantarius in 2009, near Lake Maggiore in northern Italy, in the Savoy in France, and on a lake in the centre of the Swedish city of Jönköping. For more information on the distribution of this species, click here.