KOTA KINABALU: The male of the elusive orb-weaving spider species Opadometa sarawakensis has finally been seen and recorded in the Kinabatangan district.
This species, known for its striking red and blue colours, was previously only identified through its females.
The finding was made by students during a two-week ecology field trip organised by the Naturalis Biodiversity Centre and Leiden University, and hosted by Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC).
Spider taxonomist Dr Jeremy Miller from Holland’s Leiden University said mystery had long shrouded the Opadometa genus, where the males and females look nothing alike.
The males are so elusive that scientists are still unsure whether the sexes are correctly linked to each other even in the best-known Opadometa species.
Such is the case with Opadometa sarawakensis, which has been identified only from female specimens till now, Miller said.
He said that while remarkable with their red and blue colours and large size, the females did not give the slightest hint about the likely appearance of the male.
Nevertheless, students taking part in the trip found a mature male spider hanging on the web of a red and blue female, he said.
He said the male was also quite striking in appearance, with its colour a blend of orange, grey, black and silver.
He said during the initial discovery of the male spider, researchers were unable to immediately ascertain the species as molecular DNA-based analysis was not an option since the necessary equipment was not available at DGFC.
However, using all their expertise and experience from previous field surveys in the area, the team concluded that the male’s observation on that particular female’s web, in addition to the fact that no other Opadometa species were found in the area, was enough to prove they were indeed representatives of Opadometa sarawakensis.
A manuscript was later compiled and submitted to the open-access Biodiversity Data Journal.