May April 2024 Spider of the Month

The May Spider of the Month (SOTM) is this comb-footed spider (cf. Propostira sp.; Theridiidae), photographed by Tayla Jane McCurdy in Hoedspruit, Limpopo.

There are no Propostira species recorded in Africa, and the only two recorded species in the genus are found in India and Sri Lanka. Still, the Theridiidae family in South Africa is in dire need of revision, and this one looks very much like Propostira. In the old field guide (it’s not included in the new one), it was listed under Theridula, but that’s unlikely.

These spiders have been photographed and posted here before (mostly from KZN, Limpopo, and Zimbabwe), but the specimens have to be collected to determine if it’s one of the existing two species that might have been introduced to Southern Africa, or if it’s a new species, or perhaps a different genus.

Unfortunately, there is not much I can say about this spider. I don’t know the etymology of the name Propostira (described by Eugène Simon in 1894), and I don’t know much about their behaviour, other than that they’re web dwellers and that, like all Theridiidae, they have a “comb” of setae on the tarsi of the hind legs (not visible with the naked eye).

This is Tayla’s first SOTM. Of 214 people who voted, this photo received 105 votes. It was actually second place to Sam Jacobsz’s ladybird orb-web spider (Paraplectana sp.), which received a whopping 156 votes, but Sam informed me that the same spider (different photo, different photographer, but the exact same spider) was the April 2020 SOTM, so, unfortunately, we could not declare that one the winner and #2 is therefore the new SOTM. In order to avoid something like this from happening again, we have to include a new criterion for SOTM nominations, namely that the photo had to have been taken in the last year.

Anyway, congratulations to Tayla, and thank you to everyone who voted!