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Author Chris Bentley

Pellenes, a jumping spider / Chris Bentley
Pellenes tripunctatus / Chris Bentley

During the last couple of years I have been seeing a lot of spiders at Rye Harbour nature reserve, partly due to the invertebrate monitoring which is taking place on the newly created shingle and saltmarsh habitats here, and partly because I set myself the target of seeing all the rarest species which occur on the reserve.

After reading Graemes blog

about the survey work he and Andy Phillips carried out at Iping and Stedham, and after a moments mild bristling that anybody could suggest that Rye Harbour is not the best for something, I felt compelled to take a closer look at the spiders which are found here.

The number of species recorded is about the same, 203, so not much difference there then. And Rye Harbour is quite a bit bigger. However, where Rye Harbour really stands out is in the rarity of the species involved. Coastal vegetated shingle, the main habitat at Rye Harbour nature reserve, is very rare in Britain and consequently the species associated with it tend be correspondingly scarce. Buglife lists 22 rare species associated with shingle habitats, and 14 of these have been recorded at Rye Harbour, all in the last five years and probably with more to come. This is a place that is important for shingle spiders on a NATIONAL level.

At least seven species recorded at Rye Harbour are Red Data Book species, all of which have been recorded over the last couple of years. Three are jumping spiders: Pellenes tripunctatus (RDB1), Phlegra fasciata (RDB3) and Pseudeuophrys obsoleta (RDB3). Pellenes was recorded for the first time at Rye Harbour in 2011 and only occurs here, Dungeness in Kent and Chesil Beach in Dorset in Britain. Then there are the money spiders, Trichopoterna cito (RDB2), again only occurring at three places in Britain, and Trichoncus affinis (RDB2). This latter species was last recorded at Rye Harbour in 1960 until a specimen turned up during 2012 in pitfall traps on the saltmarsh/shingle re-creation project. Of the remaining species, Haplodrassus minor (RDB3) is a rather drab ground-spider which is found amongst tidal litter and sparse vegetation, while Lathys stigmatisata (RDB3) is a tiny mesh-web spider which is relatively common at Rye Harbour and turns up often around the roots of false oat grass. There is also the jumping spider Neon pictus, new to Britain when found at Rye Harbour in 1998 and still only found in three places in the UK. On top of this there are a further seven shingle species which are nationally notable (with another three associated with other habitats).

All in all the gentleman in me wants to say that in terms of their spider fauna Iping and Stedham and Rye Harbour are equally important. The reserve warden in me just knows that some sites are more equal than others.

Chris is running a day course on Shingle Invertebrates and Spiders at Rye Harbour later this year.

Phlegra fasciata / Chris Bentley Phlegra fasciata / Chris Bentley

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