On my late night bathroom visits, my bathroom tenant would look very unimpressed with me for interrupting her dinner!
Yes, you read that right. But, the tenant was an eight-legged giant spider which would make a meal of cockroaches that would emerge from the bathroom sink in the dead of the night.
These spiders belonging to the family Sparassidae are collectively called huntsman spiders because of the agility and speed with which they take down their prey. All spiders in this family have a signature eye arrangement that consists of eight eyes arranged in two seemingly parallel rows of four.
Although most of our spider encounters are limited to the relatively common Heteropoda venatoria that we find in our homes, there are many more huntsman spiders that have adapted to various habitats. One such huntsman spider belongs to the genus Pandercetes and lives in the tropical forests of Asia and Australia. They are commonly referred to as Lichen Huntsman spiders, as the textures and colours on their body closely resemble that of lichen. Their legs have lateral hairs which gives them a feathery appearance, masking their outline further against the tree trunk. With an expertise over camouflage and its huntsman lineage, this spider is the true master of its vertical domain.
My pursuit to see the Lichen Huntsman spider began after I came across an image by Dr Abhijith APC, of an individual he had photographed in Sirsi. All my field trips to the forest patches nearby in search of this spider usually left me in dismay and I started wondering if it even existed in our lowland forests. One day, I received a call from my good friend Sanath RM, who came across one in Thirthahalli. He was affirmative about its presence in lowland forests too.
So, a trip was planned to a forest nearby and the entire day was spent in search of arthropods. As darkness creeped in, we turned on our torches. I was observing a huntsman spider with a punctured egg sac and little spiderlings were peeking out of it. Excitedly, I called out to Sanath to show him this moment.
As he approached me, his headlamp reflected a shine from the bark that was adjacent to me. When he got closer, it became clearer that the shine was coming from a lichen patch on the tree, and suddenly he exclaimed “guys, Lichen Huntsman!”. I looked to my left and there it was, sitting motionless on the tree bark right in front of which we all had spent about six hours without even noticing it.
Since then, I came across several Lichen Huntsman spiders in both lowland and highland forests. I have also been lucky enough to have recorded its breeding cycle. Here, through this series of photographs, I take you through the characteristics and breeding cycle of the incredible Lichen Huntsman.