Archive for November, 2010

In September 2008, the Manchester Museum acquired a small collection of a few spider specimens taken from the Kunashir Island, one the southern Kurile Islands, the Far East. This collection contained two males and three females of a unique and very rare species of wolf-spiders, namely, the Japanese Sandy-Beach Wolf-Spider (Lycosa inshikariana; see on the photograph).

 This medium-sized wolf spider was first discovered by the Japanese researcher M. Nakamura in coastal dunes of the western side of Hokkaido Island in 1925, but had remained poorly known until 1988 when it was re-discovered and studied taxonomically by contemporary Japanese specialists on spiders. The Sandy-Beach Wolf-Spider is known to occur only on Hokkaido, Honshu and the southern Kurile islands, being restricted to coastal sands of the Sea of Japan.

 The spider lives in vertical burrows of 15-30 cm deep into the sand. Burrows are situated in the vegetation zone of sandy dunes, about 15 m off the highest tidal mark. Burrow entrances are open at night, yet during the day they are closed by a kind of silk-sandy lids. Spiders mature, mate and lay their eggs in late March-April.

 The Sandy-Beach Wolf-Spider is very sensitive to any human disturbances of sandy dunes and currently occurs only in best preserved areas of coastal dunes, particularly of the Kunashir Island, where the Manchester Museum’s series of specimens was collected. The species definitely needs a protection as far as its habitats concern.

The Japanese Sandy-Beach Wolf-Spider (Lycosa inshikariana) on a sandy beach of the Kurile Island; © A.V. Abramov.

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Following her first visit in June (see our post on 28th June, 2010), Ms Eleanor Mulhearn <eleanor@eightandahalf.co.uk>, a teacher on the Design and Visual arts BA at Stockport College, continues to visit the MM’s Entomology Department and to explore our bug-related resources.  Her new report is included in this post.

Spiders, cockroaches, moths and woodlice

Following on from a visit to the Entomology department in summer, when I was able to discuss opportunities with Dmitri to make work inspired by the collection, projects are beginning to move ahead. Our L4 BA Art and Design students will soon be making a group visit to help inspire them with their upcoming “Make your own Museum” brief, in which they will have the opportunity to learn about the value of collections and begin their own. The students and staff are looking forward to this – I will post after the project with results.

The potential for finding inspiration and stories within this collection is huge and becomes more interesting with each visit. Close drawing studies, photographing specimens, reading articles Dmitri kindly offered to lend me and viewing a sketchbook relating to building ideas for the new Living Planet gallery, has allowed my focus to narrow to two areas. Firstly, questioning the fears that exist around insects (including harmless ones). Secondly, examining meaning in what have now become extinct and critically endangered insects from the collection.

I’ve come across a lot spiders in the house recently (typically for this time of year) and had the opportunity in Entomology to draw and study a house spider through a microscope. In response I have begun building a 1/12 scale domestic interior, including insects found in the house. In making and showing people this work, I aim to question fears and misconceptions (such as spiders creeping into the house through bathroom pipes) around these and other harmless insects we encounter: woodlice, cockroaches, moths. Images and responses to be posted when completed, but here are a few images from the project development for now…

House spider is not dangerous at all.

 Further projects may begin from making a sound / drawn animation piece composed from recordings made from insects and drawn studies both of extinct species and those successfully supported by conservation effort.

Thank you very much Dmitri, access to learning has been really helpful.

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