As we are driving back from the Altai toward Novosibirsk, I’m thinking about how lucky we were to have found two of my important target spider species, Pellenes gobiensis and Pellenes stepposus. In both cases what seemed like bad luck turned into good luck.
We’d stopped along the Buguzun River because we suspected Pellenes gobiensis might live there, but as the rain fell, I thought we’d missed our chance to find them. I was surprised when Galina came to my tent to say, “I found a Pellenes!”. Galina had figured out how to find them in the rain, nestled in little camouflaged retreats under rocks out on the steppe. Here is a female:
Here’s the twist of luck: rain not only didn’t prevent us from finding this species, but it likely helped us. Our subsequent searches turned up many specimens, but all were adult females in nests with babies. This means that they likely wouldn’t have come out onto the rocks even if it had been sunny. And, if it had been sunny, Galina and I probably would have simply walked along, scanning the ground. Not seeing anything, we might have assumed it was the wrong habitat, and not bothered to turn over rocks, which is normally a low-success activity. The rain changed that: if we were going to look, we had no choice but to take the laborious route, and it worked.
In the case of Pellenes stepposus it wasn’t rain, but a delay, that led to their discovery. On the Kuray steppe we had pretty much finished our search for Pellenes and aelurillines, and were ready to move on to another site. But, one of the tasks of this expedition is to set up pitfall traps for an ecological study, and that task was taking longer than planned. I wasn’t involved in setting up the traps, but it meant I couldn’t leave yet. I looked around, exhausted, took a deep breath, and looked for something new to try. I saw some Artemesia along a stream and thought I might as well start looking on those, not expecting to find Pellenes (but perhaps some other interesting jumping spiders). Low and behold, specimens of Pellenes stepposus started falling on my sheet.
(By the way, P. stepposus is probably not actually a Pellenes, but most likely belongs in another genus like Sibianor. That doesn’t diminish its importance to me, as Sibianor specimens are useful as a more distant point of comparison with Pellenes and Habronattus.)
I think of both of these successes as due to a twist of luck, though you could argue in both cases the “bad luck” simply provoked us to work harder. I am reminded of the old saying: “I am a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.”