Range extensions, in fact and in knowledge

Here are a male and female of a beast we caught in mangroves in Puerto Vallarta and in the forests at Chamela. Jumping spider experts out there, any guesses as to what it is? (Spoiler to follow)
Sometimes, when you listen to scientists, you find their language seems to conflate what is, with what they know about. For instance, when we talk about finding a new species, we don’t mean that the species just began its existence yesterday. The species has existed for thousands or maybe millions of years. Rather, we mean that the species is new to us. It’s our awareness that’s new, not the species. I find it disturbing that we have this tendency to talk as if anything we don’t know about doesn’t exist; I’m constantly aware that there are many things out there that I won’t ever know about, and which are perfectly happy existing without me.

Likewise, when we talk about range extensions, we sometimes mean that the species just migrated to a new location, but very often we mean simply that we found it somewhere we hadn’t found it before — an extension not in fact but in our awareness. In this latter sense, what a range extension we’ve found in Jalisco! The jumping spider genus Gypogyna is known from a single species in southern South America — Paraguay and Argentina. The spiders we found here in Jalisco are a second species, thousands of kilometers away from the previously known range of Gypogyna. Are there Gypogyna in between, and we haven’t yet found them?  Or are the two sisters separated by many many kilometers of Gypogyna-emptiness?

And a very pretty beast it is indeed.


One thought on “Range extensions, in fact and in knowledge

  1. Pingback: The Final Segment › Expiscor

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