Sunday, August 19, 2012

Adventures in Spider Misidentification: Six-spotted Fishing Spider

Six-spotted Fishing spider on Wild Rose
I'm pretty sure (that is I think) this is a juvenile Six-spotted Fishing Spider Dolomedes triton (Walckenaer, 1837). The white stripes along the carapace and abdomen and the striped femora are clues, and although it isn't fishing, it is perched near a lake and marsh. And then the abdomen does have a half-dozen pairs of white spots running down it. Unfortunately, the common name refers not to the easily seen abdominal spots, but to 6 large black spots on the sternum - something difficult to see unless the spider rolls over.
Six pairs of fuzzy spots yes, but not the definitive spots 
Charles Walckenaer was more whimsical, but no less obscure, when he named this species triton. The Greek god Triton is associated with the ocean, waves, and loud blasts of a conch shell as in "Or hear old Triton blow his wreath√®d horn" (Wordsworth 1807). In the scientific realm, species of Charonia conch are called tritons, which does make sense since these snails do live in the oceans and their shells are used as trumpets. Also a moon of the planet Neptune (Latin for Poseidon, Triton's dad) is logically called Triton. But our spider inhabits the edges of marshes, lakes, and ponds. Perhaps, like Wordsworth, Walckenaer was yearning for simpler times, when naming our putative spider, or linking their hairy visage and aquatic lifestyle with the mermaid-like Tritons and ignoring the inconvenient seas. I think I like the last best and will absorb it into my "identification" of this week's lovely, hairy denizen of the water's edge.
Wild Rose with Tricoloured Bumble Bee
I'm pretty sure (that is I would stake a bottle of wine on it) that the fishing spider is sitting on a wild rose, but which wild rose I can't say. This is a bit embarrassing, since a wild rose is the Provincial Flower of Alberta, our licence plates proclaim Alberta 'Wild Rose Country', and even a political party has taken on its name. Although 'Wild Rose' is used loosely and rarely with specific identification, technically only one of the three species of wild rose in Alberta is THE Wild Rose: Rosa acicularis Lindley the Prickly Wild Rose. Since all three of these wild rose grow in the area and this isn't a post on 'Adventures in Plant Misidentification', I will remain mute on which species.

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