July 2023 Spider of the Month

The JULY Spider of the Month (SOTM) is this decorated stumpy crab spider (Thomisops pupa; Thomisidae), photographed by Carol Bell in Marloth Park, Mpumalanga.

With plenty of wildlife in Marloth Park, Carol planted what she calls a “lowveld bush rose”, with grey leaves, that the kudus won’t eat. When she picked one of the flowers, she found this little crab spider inside.

The females of this species are 6-7 mm in body length, and with their very short and stumpy legs (hence the common name), their leg span is not much longer. Short legs like these are not very common in crab spiders. This African endemic, first described from Zanzibar (Karsch, 1869), is widespread through Africa, and in South Africa are mostly found in KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, and Limpopo, but also occur in Gauteng and the Eastern Cape.

There are 10 Thomisops species in the world, and all but two of them can be found in Africa (the other two found in China), of which seven species are found in South Africa.

I don’t know the etymology of Thomisops pupa, but the family, Thomisidae, and the genus Thomisus, are a dialectical form of a Greek verb, meaning “whip, scourge, tie, bind”. As Walckenaer said in the early 1800s, they “spy out their prey, stretching out a single thread of silk to catch it”. With my very limited Greek and Latin knowledge, “ops” refers to eyes, and “pupa” refers to a doll or puppet. Not sure how these would tie together to this comical little crab spider.

This is Carol’s first SOTM, and from one of the first photos she’s posted on the group. From 221 votes, her photo received 124 votes (56%). This is also the first “small-eyed” spider to win since October 2022, when a theridiid won. While the Thomisops spp. always do quite well in the SOTM, this is the first time one has won. Congratulations, Carol, and we hope to see many more of your photos on this group!