Found possible rare “mold” looking spider in Papua New Guinea
Thu, Apr 23, 2009 at 7:14 PM
I recently returned from six weeks of work in the Papua New Guinea jungle, mostly in the Southern Highlands. While we came across many strange bugs and spiders, none were more strange than this one. I have so far been been unable to find any photos resembling anything like this species and am wondering if we may have stumbled upon something very rare or unnamed (I’m sure you get this question often). The spider was about 5 cm across and covered with fine hair, which makes it look out of focus in the photo. Evolution clearly intended this spider to look like a patch of mold. As you’ll see, the abdomen is distinctly concave and looks like a thin plate of mold. It was resting on a live tree covered in red paper-like bark. Even the locals seemed interested, leading me to believe this wasn’t an everyday sighting. As a g eologist, I know it’s imperative to include a scale, but unfortunately I forgot as I was preoccupied with work. I’m very curious to hear what you’ve got to say.
Near the Tari Basin, Southern Highlands, Papua New Guinea
We believe, based on its shape, that your spider is one of the Giant Crab Spiders in the family Sparassidae, but we don’t believe it is a living specimen. It is our opinion that this spider is riddled with fungus, leading to its unusual appearance. Many spiders and insects are killed by fungus infections.
Update: Sun, Apr 26, 2009 at 8:32 PM
Thanks for the quick response. The possibility of this being a dead animal had not crossed my, nor the others I was with. After looking at the image again, I noticed the spider is only attached to the tree with four legs, resting in a vertical position on a live tree. Could he be dead and still be attached with no apparent web etc? I’ve attached the full-sized image and filtered out some of the noise. Thanks for your help.
We are sticking to our original ID. The fungus may have grown onto the leaf, attaching the spider.