Archive for April, 2020

Since 2019, I have been working with two arachnological donations to the Manchester Museum’s Entomology Department: the spider collections by John Murphy comprising of more than 45,000 samples (donated in 2015), and by Richard Jones comprising of about 10,000 tubes (donated in 2017). Both collections are being recurated with the support from volunteers.  

Richard Jones (1943 – 2017) was an artist and professional photographer, and the author of many photographic identification guides, including “Country life guide to spiders of Britain and Northern Europe” published in 1983 (see obituary). John (b. 192?) and Frances (1926-1995) Murphy were the well-known British arachnologists; an account of their spider collection was recently published by myself (see paper). Richard Jones and John Murphy were close friends, active arachnologists and great contributors to the British Arachnological Society. Both were involved in many field collecting trips across the UK and overseas, published books and recorded spiders for the national Spider Recording Scheme.

During the recuration of Jones’ spider collection, I have encountered some interesting stories and specimens, particularly from Corfu, Greece, collected in March and April 1983 and from the Pyrénées-Orientales, France, collected in June 1982. The recuration process (viz., rehousing specimens from plastic to better-suited glass tubes) also faces some challenges. Among these are the updating of the taxonomy (i.e., providing them with correct and currently accepted names); counting all the specimens in each tube (sometimes over 100! in a tube); separating spiders from insects (e.g. flies, ants and wasps) and other invertebrates; and rehydrating dry specimens.

Curiosities from Corfu

1. The paratype of Dysdera murphyorum, family Dysderidae (Woodlouse Spiders), described by Deeleman-Reinhold in 1988, collected in Corfu in April 1983. This specimen is not only important for its scientific value (it is the specimen that was used to describe a new species) but also because the species was named after John Murphy and his wife Frances for their contributions to the arachnology. They spent more than 30 years assembling and working with an amazing spider collection.

2. Two unexpected scorpions from Kassiopi (a picturesque, touristy village in Corfu). Scorpions are in the same class as spiders (Arachnida) but belong to their own order Scorpiones. These specimens are from the genus Euscorpius, family Euscorpiidae.

3. Size differences between female and male spiders. Here, the much larger female of Eresus sp., family Eresidae (Velvet Spiders) next to the smaller male. Females are velvet black or dark grey whilst mature males have red bodies with four spots.

4. Specimens of Palpimanus gibbulus Dufour, 1820 from the family Palpimanidae (Palp-footed Spiders). Their dark red colour is still preserved in the abdomen and its front legs are larger and darker than the others. This species occurs the Mediterranean and Central Asia.

5. Scytodes thoracica (Latreille, 1802), Scytodidae (Spitting Spiders). This spider spits a silk-venomous substance over its prey. The yellowish colour in the body and the stripes in their legs are still visible.

Peculiarities from the Pyrenees

Part of the history of the British Arachnological Society is entangled with this collection. I have found specimens collected during the first BAS meeting outside Britain at Mas Forge Field Centre in France, 5th – 12th June, 1982. Seven members of the BAS (including John and Frances Murphy and Richard Jones) and four Belgium arachnologists enjoyed the trip to the Pyrénées-Orientales in southern France. A brief account of the trip, including descriptions of the species found and places visited, was published in the BAS Newsletter No. 35 (Parker, 1982).

1. The group explored the paths around the field centre, this specimen of the pale Cheiracanthium mildei L. Koch, 1864, Cheiracanthiidae (Sac Spiders) was possibly collected on the first day of the trip around the field centre.

2. Evarcha jucunda (Lucas, 1846), Salticidae (Jumping Spiders). This specimen was collected in Vingrau, a small village in Languedoc – Roussillon region. This species only occurs naturally in the Mediterranean region.

3. Zodarion rubidum Simon, 1914, Zodariidae (Ant Spiders). This small specimen was collected at Col de Jou (1125 m). This species is originally from western France but can now be seen in central Europe. It mimics red ants.

4. Aculepeira ceropegia (Walckenaer, 1802), Araneidae (Typical Orb Weaver Spiders). This species is more frequent at higher altitudes, it was found on Mont-Louis (1200 m).

5. Misumena vatia (Clerck, 1757), Thomisidae (Typical Crab Spiders). This spider, as the name suggests, looks like a small crab. It was collected at the edge of the Pyrenees in a wood with cork oaks on the last day of the trip. Adults change colour, camouflaging themselves against their background, in order to capture insects, especially on flowers.

Having been on holiday to the same place in the summer of 2019, I totally agree when Frances Murphy who wrote in her account of the trip that her only complaint was that ‘a week is too short’. The collection has many specimens of great value, waiting for their hidden stories to be shared, including this fly that bit Richard Jones!


Arzuza Buelvas, D. 2018. The Murphy spider collection at the Manchester Museum: a valuable research resource for arachnologists. JoNSC 6: 48-5. O’Neill, G. 1995. Frances Mary Murphy (1926-1995). Newsl. Br. arachnol. Soc. 74: 3-4. Parker, J.R. 1982. Arachnological History: The B.A.S. Meeting at Mas Forge Field Centre in France, 5th-12th June 1982. Newsl. Br. arachnol. Soc. 35: 1-2 Smith, H. 2018. Obituary: Richard David Curtis (Dick) Jones 1943-2017. Newsl. Br. arachnol. Soc.141: 12

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