Ground spider diversity studied in research project

COLLEGE STATION None of Takesha Henderson's discoveries are named Charlotte, but they are weaving a new chapter in Texas entomology. Her graduate studies at Texas A&M University have led to the discovery of 25 new spiders in Brazos County and one species found for the first time in Texas.

In research sponsored by the National Science Foundation, Henderson, who is earning a master's degree, has been studying ground spider diversity, distribution and abundance in the 515-acre Lick Creek Park south of College Station.

She has caught 1,000 specimens in 111 species over two years. The most common were several species of wolf spiders, she said.

A total of 989 species of spiders have been identified in Texas; 280 of these are found in Brazos County.

Henderson set out pitfall traps made of plastic cups, funnels and animal-safe antifreeze to collect the spiders. A variety of sites including upland woods, post oak woodlands and an area disturbed by a high level of human activity were chosen.

The collected samples are being identified and placed in the Texas A&M Insect Collection, department of entomology.

Dr. Marvin Harris, Texas Agricultural Experiment Station entomologist and chair of Henderson's master's committee, began working with her when she was an undergraduate.

"Takesha's work at Lick Creek Park is expanding our knowledge of this local natural resource and the role such habitats play in nature," Harris said. "This knowledge can enrich our human experience and can also be used in larger studies of biodiversity and production agriculture involving spiders."

For people who think the only good spider is a dead spider, Henderson has this to say: A diverse spider population signifies a healthy habitat.

Spiders "help maintain the balance of nature," said Dr. John Jackman, Texas Cooperative Extension entomologist in College Station, "They help keep a lid on the population of arthropods.

Contact: Dr. Marvin Harris
Texas A&M University - Agricultural Communications

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