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Peruvian Amazon's Roly Poly Spider and Other Exotic Orb Weavers

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[ Tortoise Orb Weavers | Thorn Orb Weavers | Roly Poly Orb Weavers | Jewel Caterpillar | Spider Faces | 50 Tiny Creatures ]

Peruvian Amazon's Roly Poly Spider and Other Exotic Orb Weavers
In the last 2 nights of my trip to the Peruvian Amazon organized by Rainforest Expeditions, I photographed 2 rare specimens of the Roly Poly Orb Weaver - Xylethrus scrupeus Simon, 1895. This spider tends to drop from its web when approached and rolls up into a cute ball when it hits the forest floor. When I picked it up on a leaf, it would just roll off and disappear into the leaf litter again. It would remain motionless and camouflaged in the leaf litter like a ball of poop for a period of time, and return to its web after it was deemed safe enough.

Good news if you are interested to make trips to Tambopata - readers of this blog can get a 10% discount from bookings to the Peruvian Amazon via Rainforest Expeditions - just mention the discount code SGMACRO when making your reservations!

The female Xylethrus has an abdomen that is as wide as long or slightly wider, covered with sclerotized discs with round hemispherical tubercles. The abdomen has a distinct anterior median flat disc. The spinnerets are also surrounded by a sclerotized ring. The sternum is also as wide as long or slightly wider, and truncate posteriorly between coxae IV with several tubercles along the edge.

The second part of this post focuses on the genera of Araneidae that I found in Tambopata, Peru. Here's a quick list for reference.
  1. Acacesia Simon, 1895
  2. Alpaida O. Pickard-Cambridge, 1889
  3. Argiope Audouin, 1826
  4. Aspidolasius Simon, 1887
  5. Cyclosa Menge, 1866
  6. Encyosaccus Simon, 1895
  7. Eriophora Simon, 1864
  8. Hypognatha Guérin, 1839
  9. Kapogea Levi, 1997
  10. Mangora O. Pickard-Cambridge, 1889
  11. Metazygia F. O. Pickard-Cambridge, 1904
  12. Micrathena Sundevall, 1833
  13. Ocrepeira Marx, 1883
  14. Parawixia F. O. P. Cambridge, 1904
  15. Xylethrus Simon, 1895
  16. Verrucosa McCook, 1888
  17. Wagneriana F. O. Pickard-Cambridge, 1904
Most references were made from Herbert W. Levi (1996) - The American Orb Weavers Hypognatha, Encyosaccus, Xylethrus, Gasteracantha, and Enacrosoma (Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard College 155: 89-157). Special thanks to Pedro H. Martins for his kind help in identifying the spiders, as well as Vico Moscoso and Jeff Cremer for ploughing through the trails with me.
    Roly poly orb weaver (Xylethrus scrupeus) - DSC_3963
  1. Roly poly orb weaver (Xylethrus scrupeus) Buy this Photo
    The first specimen we found was just a tiny blob at about 6mm wide.

  2. Roly poly orb weaver (Xylethrus scrupeus) - DSC_3964
  3. Roly poly orb weaver (Xylethrus scrupeus) Buy this Photo
    It dropped to the forest floor very quickly as we approached. The dorsal view reveals the anterior median flat disc.

  4. Roly poly orb weaver (Xylethrus scrupeus) - DSC_3970
  5. Roly poly orb weaver (Xylethrus scrupeus) Buy this Photo
    Playing dead while rolled up. This specimen looks like it has not eaten in a while.

  6. Roly poly orb weaver (Xylethrus scrupeus) - DSC_3982
  7. Roly poly orb weaver (Xylethrus scrupeus) Buy this Photo
    Lateral view - all legs are tucked in neatly.

  8. Roly poly orb weaver (Xylethrus scrupeus) - DSC_3986
  9. Roly poly orb weaver (Xylethrus scrupeus) Buy this Photo
    Posterior view - can hardly tell that it is a spider!

  10. Roly poly orb weaver (Xylethrus scrupeus) - DSC_3995
  11. Roly poly orb weaver (Xylethrus scrupeus) Buy this Photo
    Finally wakes up! The spider rolled around the forest floor again and woke up with bits of dirt on its face.

  12. Roly poly orb weaver (Xylethrus scrupeus) - DSC_4002
  13. Roly poly orb weaver (Xylethrus scrupeus) Buy this Photo
    Striking a very handsome pose.

  14. Roly poly orb weaver (Xylethrus scrupeus) - DSC_4446
  15. Roly poly orb weaver (Xylethrus scrupeus) Buy this Photo
    On the last night, I found a much larger Xylethrus!

  16. Roly poly orb weaver (Xylethrus scrupeus) - DSC_4454
  17. Roly poly orb weaver (Xylethrus scrupeus) Buy this Photo
    It looked like it had just fed, with an obviously swollen abdomen.

  18. Roly poly orb weaver (Xylethrus scrupeus) - DSC_4459
  19. Roly poly orb weaver (Xylethrus scrupeus) Buy this Photo
    As usual, it dropped to the forest litter when I approached, while leaving an escape line from its spinnerets to its web so that it can return when the coast is clear. The sclerotized ring around the spinnerets is very clear in this photo, as well as the posteriorly truncated sternum between coxae IV.

  20. Roly poly orb weaver (Xylethrus scrupeus) - DSC_4464
  21. Roly poly orb weaver (Xylethrus scrupeus) Buy this Photo
    Due to the swollen abdomen, the tucked in legs are less conspicuous - could hardly tell that it is a spider at all.

  22. Roly poly orb weaver (Xylethrus scrupeus) - DSC_4470
  23. Roly poly orb weaver (Xylethrus scrupeus) Buy this Photo
    Rolled over for a shot of the face.

  24. Roly poly orb weaver (Xylethrus scrupeus) - DSC_4473
  25. Roly poly orb weaver (Xylethrus scrupeus) Buy this Photo
    More documentative lateral shots.

  26. Roly poly orb weaver (Xylethrus scrupeus) - DSC_4485
  27. Roly poly orb weaver (Xylethrus scrupeus) Buy this Photo
    Posterior view - surprisingly, some tubercles do not seem symmetrical.

  28. Roly poly orb weaver (Xylethrus scrupeus) - DSC_4489
  29. Roly poly orb weaver (Xylethrus scrupeus) Buy this Photo
    The spider rested at any position after rolling around.

  30. Roly poly orb weaver (Xylethrus scrupeus) - DSC_4494
  31. Roly poly orb weaver (Xylethrus scrupeus) Buy this Photo
    Closer dorsal view, showing the anterior median flat disc and hemispherical tubercles.

  32. Roly poly orb weaver (Xylethrus scrupeus) - DSC_4504
  33. Roly poly orb weaver (Xylethrus scrupeus) Buy this Photo
    Happily rolling around again!

  34. Roly poly orb weaver (Xylethrus scrupeus) - DSC_4508
  35. Roly poly orb weaver (Xylethrus scrupeus) Buy this Photo
    It remained motionless after rolling, regardless of how unnatural the resulting position was.

  36. Roly poly orb weaver (Xylethrus scrupeus) - DSC_4515
  37. Roly poly orb weaver (Xylethrus scrupeus) Buy this Photo
    At this position, it would be more likely to "wake up" and walk away soon.

  38. Roly poly orb weaver (Xylethrus scrupeus) - DSC_4521
  39. Roly poly orb weaver (Xylethrus scrupeus) Buy this Photo
    True enough, she stood up slowly and started to get a feel of her surroundings.

  40. Roly poly orb weaver (Xylethrus scrupeus) - DSC_4528
  41. Roly poly orb weaver (Xylethrus scrupeus) Buy this Photo
    She started hobbling around clumsily, and we returned her to her orb web.

  42. Dung beetle (Scarabidae) - DSC_4393
  43. Dung beetle (Scarabidae) Buy this Photo
    Interestingly, we found several dung beetles rolling balls of poop around, could Xylethrus be mimicking a ball of dung? Seems unlikely since it is an orb-weaver and should only capture prey on its orb web.

  44. Dung beetle (Scarabidae) - DSC_4396
  45. Dung beetle (Scarabidae) Buy this Photo
    Shot of the dung beetle on top of the poop ball.

  46. Several other genera of orb weavers (Araneidae) were documented on this trip. There were too many to do detailed posts for each genus, so I'll list a summary of the genera here.

    Orb weaver spider (Acacesia sp.) - DSC_9559
  47. Acacesia Simon, 1895 Buy this Photo
    A stunning species in this photo, especially when perched on its orb web. View the Acacesia album.

  48. Orb weaver spider (Alpaida tabula) - DSC_1077
  49. Alpaida O. Pickard-Cambridge, 1889 Buy this Photo
    Found Alpaida alpaida and Alpaida truncata on this trip. View the Alpaida album.

  50. Silver cross spider (Argiope argentata) - DSC_1750
  51. Argiope Audouin, 1826 Buy this Photo
    Several specimens of Argiope argentata were found just beside the lodge. View the Argiope album.

  52. Crab orb weaver (Aspidolasius branick) - DSC_4308
  53. Aspidolasius Simon, 1887 Buy this Photo
    Both male and female specimens of Aspidolasius branick were photographed. View the Aspidolasius album.

  54. Trashline orb weaver (Araneidae) - DSC_3795b
  55. Cyclosa Menge, 1866 Buy this Photo
    Cyclosa in the Peruvian Amazon is commonly known as the decoy spider for building stabilimentum to a spider-ish shape. Usually called the trashline orb weaver in Asia! View the Cyclosa album.

  56. Tortoise orb weaver (Encyosaccus sexmaculatus) - DSC_3126
  57. Encyosaccus Simon, 1895 Buy this Photo
    A beautiful Encyosaccus sexmaculatus was spotted in the day, allowing the bright sky colour in the background. Read more about this spider in an earlier post on Tortoise Orb Weavers. View the Encyosaccus album.

  58. Orb weaver spider (Eriophora sp.) - DSC_3828
  59. Eriophora Simon, 1864 Buy this Photo
    This Eriophora is large and very commonly seen in the trails. More colourful ones were also spotted in my Belize trip. View the Eriophora album.

  60. Turtle back orb weaver (Hypognatha scutata) - DSC_2227
  61. Hypognatha Guérin, 1839 Buy this Photo
    Several morphs of Hypognatha scutata were spotted at Collpa Island. Really adorable but tiny turtle back orb weavers! Read more about this spider in an earlier post on Tortoise Orb Weavers. View the Hypognatha album.

  62. Tent web spider (Kapogea sellata) - DSC_3915
  63. Kapogea Levi, 1997 Buy this Photo
    This tent web spider was initially mistaken to be a Cyrtophora, but later identified as Kapogea sellata. View the Kapogea album.

  64. Orb weaver spider (Mangora sp.) - DSC_2132
  65. Mangora O. Pickard-Cambridge, 1889 Buy this Photo
    An inconspicuous orb weaver, also found on Collpa Island. View the Mangora album.

  66. Orb weaver spider (Metazygia sp.) - DSC_7695
  67. Metazygia F. O. Pickard-Cambridge, 1904 Buy this Photo
    Vaguely resembles Zygiella that we have in Singapore. View the Metazygia album.

  68. Thorn orb weaver (Micrathena kirbyi) - DSC_1061
  69. Micrathena Sundevall, 1833 Buy this Photo
    At least 9 different species were identified in this flamboyant genus of thorn orb weavers. More photos of Micrathena are posted in Thorned Heart and Other Thorn Orb Weavers. View the Micrathena album.

  70. Orb weaver spider (Ocrepeira covillei) - DSC_1939
  71. Ocrepeira Marx, 1883 Buy this Photo
    Only one shot of Ocrepeira covillei as it disappeared into the leaf litter. View the Ocrepeira album.

  72. Orb weaver spider (Parawixia sp.) - DSC_3824b
  73. Parawixia F. O. P. Cambridge, 1904 Buy this Photo
    Very different from the common Parawixia dehaani in Singapore! View the Parawixia album.

  74. Roly poly orb weaver (Xylethrus scrupeus) - DSC_4002
  75. Xylethrus Simon, 1895 Buy this Photo
    And of course, the star of this post, Xylethrus scrupeus the roly poly orb weaver. View the Xylethrus album.

  76. Orb weaver spider (Verrucosa sp.) - DSC_1522
  77. Verrucosa McCook, 1888 Buy this Photo
    Verrucosa has incredibly distinct posterior abdominal tubercles. A black-yellow species was also recorded in my Belize trip. View the Verrucosa album.

  78. Orb weaver spider (Wagneriana sp.) - DSC_2415
  79. Wagneriana F. O. Pickard-Cambridge, 1904 Buy this Photo
    Wagneriana is very common in the trails of Tambopata, with several abdominal dorso spines. View the Wagneriana album.

  80. For those interested to see how the accommodation was like at Tambopata Research Centre or TRC in short, here are some photos of the lodge! Bedroom
  81. Room 13
    Yes that was my room number. 2 beds with a safe box.

  82. Charging station
  83. Charging station
    Power generators are on at certain hours of the day. This is where I rush to charge my arsenal of batteries, phone and laptop.

  84. Common toilets
  85. Showers
    The showers and toilets are shared but very nicely done up.

  86. Communal dining
  87. Dining area
    Communal dining where everyone gather and share stories on their day's discoveries.

  88. Scarlet Macaws
  89. Scarlet macaws
    Some resident scarlet macaws roam around the welcome centre. Very naughty and they love to steal food from the dining area.

  90. Bar
  91. Bar
    Alcohol and other cold beverages available here!

The past 3 blog posts had been all about orb weavers, because Araneidae is easily the most morphologically diverse family of spiders. With that, future posts would focus on other exotic subjects from the Peruvian Amazon.

From this week-long trip, I have selected and uploaded over 900 photos out of almost 4000 clicks on the camera on my Flickr stream. Remember that readers of this blog can get a 10% discount from bookings to the Peruvian Amazon via Rainforest Expeditions - just mention the discount code SGMACRO when making your reservations!

Remember to follow my work on Facebook, Twitter or Flickr for the most updated posts!

Read more posts on the Peruvian Amazon
[ Tortoise Orb Weavers | Thorn Orb Weavers | Roly Poly Orb Weavers | Jewel Caterpillar | Spider Faces | 50 Tiny Creatures ]


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