Finding out more about Namaqua National Park’s arachnids

Free entry to the park from 18-24 September.

Namaqua National Park is a favourite destination of flower enthusiasts for testing their knowledge of the colourful blooms. But not much is known about the creeping, crawling arachnids that seek shelter in this diverse habitat.

Through collecting samples of different arachnid species, para-ecologist Reginald Christiaan is on a mission to learn more about the distribution and habitat preferences of spider and scorpion species in the park.

Through funding from the South African National Biodiversity Intstitute (SANBI), Christiaan is gathering information on the diversity of eight-legged invertebrates, including spiders and scorpions.

While the conditions of the Namaqua National Park are often harsh – especially during the hot summer months – arachnids that find a haven in the park are well-adapted to survive there. But no-one has ever embarked on research regarding their distribution and habitat preferences within the park.

Funnelweb spider.

“The general lack of knowledge of arachnid diversity in the Northern Cape and the Succulent Karoo make this survey very important,” says Christiaan, who is from Namaqua’s neighbouring community, Soebatsfontein. This research will inform conservation planning and management in the park.

So far, Christiaan has already recorded 21 spider families represented by 60 species of spiders alone, and other very rare species. Two species recorded were previously only thought to be found in Namibia. One of these, the Hottentotta arenaceus, is a pale orange-yellow scorpion that was found in the coastal section in the park. Another species sampled, Asemesthis affinis Lessert 1933 (Gnaphosidae),  is a ground spider, previously only thought to be found in Angola. Xysticus cribratus Simon, 1885 (Thomisidae), which is found from the Mediterranean to Korea and Sudan, was also recorded in the park. Three more species identified may be new discoveries, and are yet to be studied in order for certain identification to take place.

Palpimanidae Diaphorocellus biplagiata.

Searching for these creatures is no easy feat. Christiaan and co-workers look under rocks and rustle bushes to gather samples, and use ultra-violet light at night to search for scorpions. These samples are then sent to the National Collection of Arachnida at the ARC-Plant Protection Research Institute in Pretoria, where final identification is made.

This research will form part of the South African National Survey of Arachnida (SANSA) data set and will provide valuable information on the distribution of species to be used in compiling the first Red Data List for arachnids.

Article: Taryn Arnott van Jaarsveld

Contact Information

For enquiries email Namaqua National Park or phone

  • Park Tel: +27 (0)27 672 1948
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