Why exactly am I going to Siberia? I explained in a previous post that Eurasia holds a diversity of Pellenes that’s important for me to study, for comparison with North America’s Habronattus jumping spiders. But of all the places in Eurasia, why Siberia?
First, work by Russian colleagues has made the Siberian fauna known and accessible. Dmitri Logunov (now at the Manchester Museum) did extensive field work in the same region around 1990. He, Yuri Marusik, and other colleagues published several important papers on Pellenes in the central Asian region from Siberia to Iran. This gives us a solid idea of Siberia’s Pellenes species, and of precise localities we could visit. Galina Azarkina, working at the SZMN-IEIE-SB-RAS in Novosibirsk, knows the region well, though she’s focused primarily on a different group of jumping spiders, the aelurillines.
Second, southern Siberia has just the right combination of species to give us key information. It has all of the basic Pellenes diversity we might find elsewhere in Eurasia, but it is also the only place to find a special target, Pellenes logunovi. As you might guess, this species was named in honour of Dmitri, by Yuri and colleagues.
Here’s the reason that P. logunovi is so special: Among Pellenes and related genera, two groups are restricted to the Americas: the spectacular Habronattus, and a distinctive group of several Pellenes species that includes the familiar Canadian P. peninsularis. The peninsularis group and Habronattus appear very closely related, and indeed recent evidence hints that the peninsularis group might be within Habronattus. This would discombobulate our view of Habronattus evolution, and so we want to confirm or refute it. P. logunovi is unusual among Eurasian Pellenes in appearing to be very similar to the peninsularis group. If it is the closest Eurasian species to the peninsularis group and Habronattus, it could help resolve whether Habronattus has the peninsularis group within it.
Now I’ll go (even more) technical, for the salticid geeks (the rest of you can cover your eyes). The Harmochirina fall into two groups, the harmochirines sensu stricto (Harmochirus, Bianor, Sibianor, etc.) and the pellenines (Pellenes, Neaetha, Havaika, Habronattus, and a few others). Some unpublished (and incomplete) molecular data hint to the following:
- Several subgenera of Pellenes (Pellenes, Pelpaucus, Pellap) form a monophyletic group, the true Pellenes.
- The American Pellenattus are closer to Habronattus than to Pellenes, which would likely lead to Pellenattus being to move out of Pellenes as its own genus.
- Havaika is the sister to Pellenattus plus Habronattus.
- The African Pellenes with a filamentous or absent tegular apophysis are even more distant from the true Pellenes.
The Siberian specimens will not only help to test these hypotheses, but also help place other subgroups of Pellenes (Pelmultus, Pelmirus). This will leave only a few pieces of the puzzle to get, most importantly Neaetha and similar genera with a very long third leg.