New species of spi­der and snake dis­cov­ered in Cyprus

Cyprus Today - - NEWS - By ANNE CANALP

A NEW species of spi­der and of snake have been dis­cov­ered at op­po­site ends of the is­land, in the Beş­par­mak Moun­tains and near Paphos.

The tiny spi­der Harpactea günselo­rum was found dur­ing a Near East Univer­sity North Cyprus Spi­ders Sur­vey project with Ege Univer­sity and the Wildlife Re­search In­sti­tute and named for the univer­sity founder Suat Günsel. News pub­lished in the Arach­no­log­i­cal Bul­letin of the Mid­dle East and North Africa ad­vised that the dis­cov­ery doc­u­mented male and fe­male spec­i­mens of a new species of the genus Harpactea Bris­towe.

NEU Pro­fes­sor Salih Gü­cel said: “It’s unique to Cyprus and abun­dant in Beş­par­mak. Mostly en­demic to smaller re­gions of the Mediter­ranean and hot cli­mates, this type of spi­der hunts on the ground at night and does not build webs.”

He added that al­though not poi­sonous to hu­mans, the spi­der did use venom on its in­sect prey and had been found in forested and bush­land areas. In­quiries to col­leagues in the South would help dis­cover its range.

Paphos-based Hans Jorg Wiedl, known to all as “Snake Ge­orge”, also dis­cov­ered a tiny species of snake this week which was re­ported to him by a Bri­tish cou­ple in Peyia.

The 75-year-old Aus­trian ex­pert hopes to prove that the thin, 11cm black-headed dwarf snake is an en­demic sub-species of Rhyn­chocala­mus melanocephalus or even a new species.

The tiny snake re­sem­bles one from Is­rael and oth­ers found in Turkey and Syria, but with dif­fer­ences in colour and mark­ings, and is very del­i­cate to han­dle.

Mr Wiedl had waited five years for an­other sight­ing af­ter two pre­vi­ous re­ports, one of them by a Bri­tish tourist who had re­leased the snake be­fore he could in­spect it.

The res­i­dent her­petol­o­gist has al­ready re­dis­cov­ered the Cyprus grass snake and proved that blunt­nosed vipers lay eggs and not live young as pre­vi­ously thought.

He hopes a sci­en­tist will be­gin re­search and send DNA sam­ples to Is­rael to ver­ify his find and may be con­tacted on (00357) 99 987685.

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