February 2024 Spider of the Month

The February spider of the month (SOTM) is this cross-marked spiny orb-web spider (Hypsacantha crucimaculata; Araneidae), found by Haddad/Booysen/Vickers during their fieldwork in Ndumo Game Reserve in KwaZulu-Natal. The photo was taken by Rudi Steenkamp.

Not much is known about the behaviour of these spiders, other than that they spin orb webs in low vegetation. This is a monotypic genus, containing only this one species, which can be found only in Africa (Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and South Africa).

These tiny orb-web spiders (about 5 mm body length) are part of the subfamily Gasteracanthinae, which means “thorny stomach”, after the Greek gaster (stomach) and akantha (thorn). Most (if not all) of these spiders have six spines on the abdomen. Other well-known examples found in South Africa include the kite spiders (Gasteracantha spp.) and the box kite spiders (Isoxya spp.). I’m not sure what the hyps in the genus name refers to, but it probably describes a property of the “thorns” (akantha). The crucimaculata epithet refers to the cross marking on the abdomen – from the Latin crux/crucis (cross) and maculatus (stained/spotted) – which doesn’t always seem to be prominent.