Lagunas de Montebello

The geographical centre of my childhood is a point just across from Zephyr Island on the shore of Lake of Bays, in Ontario, Canada. There my family rented a cottage for a few weeks each summer throughout my childhood. It was a place of peace, of silver ripples at dusk, and a place of discovery, of salamanders and Sibianor and Maevia and Euophrys and Habronattus. My brother David and I never tired of its Nature.

A lake, surrounded by a green forest; the morning mist; a few people quietly working or sitting. A week ago I found myself in this familiar scene, filled with peace and an anticipation of discovery, at Lagunas de Montebello, a national park on the border with Guatemala. It’s at about 1500 metres elevation, a beautiful green cloud forest with epiphytes adorning many of the trees’ branches. After rousing from our cabins along the lake, we went to speak about our research plans to Odetta Cervantes Bieletto, director of the park, and her colleague Jose Alejandro Leon Mendoza (Alex). Alex, along with the park’s long-experienced Roberto, suggested a trail right near the headquarters. And so we headed out, beating sheets, sticks, and vials ready.

Within the first few minutes we got a surprise, the magical blue-legged Mexigonus! It turns out they were much more common than at the Puerto Antonio site in Oaxaca — at Montebello we got five males and a few females.

Montebello blue-legged Mexigonus

They might be a different species from that in Oaxaca, as the blue is muted, darker, and the face is red only above the eyes. We’ll answer the question of whether they are a different species once we get back to the lab.

We eventually found 5 species of Mexigonus there. Here are males of the other four:

4 other Mexigonus from Montebello

The top left and bottom right were new for our trip. We suspect that four of the five are new to science.

I’ll long remember the precious day at Montebello, not only for the new species of spiders, but also for its peaceful richness.

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