A furniture shop owner from Greater Kaohsiung has cast new light on a rare arachnid known as the “ogre-faced spider.”
Hsu Kun-chin (許坤金) published his findings on the shedding and mating processes of the Deinopis spider genus in last month’s edition of the 2011 Nature Conservation Quarterly.
His publication in a magazine run by the Executive Yuan’s Endemic Species Research Institute has earned him tremendous feedback.
Taking time out from manning his shop, Hsu joined the Kaohsiung Natural Observation Association (NOA) because of his fascination with gardening and frequently went with other like-minded friends on field trips to take pictures of ecological habitats.
During an observation trip in May 2008, he happened upon a strange type of spider in the mountains around the former Liouguei Township (六龜) that NOA chairman Chen Jen-jie (陳仁杰) later said belonged to the rare Deinopis spider genus.
The Deinopidae family consists of stick-like elongated spiders that weave unusual webs they suspend between their front legs. They then stretch the web to two or three times its initial length and cast it onto their prey, entangling it in their web.
The practice has also earned it the nickname “net-casting spider.”
Hsu said the Deinopis genus of the Deinopidae family is quite rare, both in Taiwan and abroad.
Because Deinopis are nocturnal and brown-colored, they are extremely difficult to notice when they hide amid trees in daytime, Hsu said, adding that to study the unique habits of the Deinopis more closely, he had visited the mountains 23 times.
“Though I often encountered boars and poisonous snakes on those trips, I never wavered from my goal,” Hsu said, adding that he had also brought some Deinopis spiders back home to keep.
The spiders’ nocturnal habits initially created problems for Hsu’s family, but they eventually came to support his passion after seeing how engrossed he was in his research.
During his research, Hsu discovered that the shedding process of the Deinopis did not match the description in textbooks.
Even more rare, Hsu managed to take pictures of the male Deinopis weaving a sperm web, which is used for mating.
The Deinopis’ mysterious comings and goings, as well as its particular way of hunting, are a fascinating subject, Hsu said, adding that he hoped that by sharing his observations with the public, more people would develop an interest in, and a desire to protect, the rare arachnid.
TRANSLATED BY JAKE CHUNG, STAFF WRITER