LOOK: Pinoy father-daughter scientists discover 3 new jumping spider species in Luzon

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 20 2020 11:25 AM

MANILA — As one of the most diverse countries in the world, the Philippines continues to surprise scientists with the discovery of new plant and animal species. 

A father-daughter tandem of scientists discovered three new species of jumping spiders described in a recently published journal article of the Philippine Journal of Systematic Biology.

Dr. Aimee Lynn Barrion-Dupo of University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) and Dr. Albert Barrion of De La Salle University found Lepidemathis cavinti from a forest in Cavinti town, Laguna, Lepidemathis dogmai near a dry river in Mauban town, Quezon and Lepidemathis lipa near a young cacao orchard in Lipa City, Batangas.

LOOK: Pinoy father-daughter scientists discover 3 new jumping spider species in Luzon 1
Courtesy of Dr. Aimee Lynn B. Dupo

“Jumping spiders are arthropods that do not make the typical orb webs we know most spiders make. They're hunting spiders that have very good eye sight,” said Dupo, who is also the UPLB Museum of Natural History curator for spiders and moths.

These spiders, as their name implies, use their jumping ability to catch prey, Dupo explained.

“They make up the largest and most diverse family of spiders, i.e. Salticidae. They are common in the country but very few study them. So far, there are four Lepidemathis (a genus of Salticidae) recorded in the Philippines; now we have a total of seven with these new species,” she said.

LOOK: Pinoy father-daughter scientists discover 3 new jumping spider species in Luzon 2
Courtesy of Dr. Aimee Lynn B. Dupo

Dupo explained that the three species they discovered are unique because of their reproductive organs. The journal article can be read here: https://asbp.org.ph/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/PJSB_S01-2019-009.pdf.

She said local scientists have long been doing field collections and it was only recently when their “schedules lightened up a bit” that they had time to sort through their collections.

“Sorting collected materials can be likened to mining for treasures. There is always a sense of excitement when you know something in the batch of spiders you're looking at does not look like anything else that has been described,” she said.

In an earlier interview with ABS-CBN News, Dupo explained the challenge faced by the country’s researchers as many try to juggle academic and teaching jobs with research and field work.

LOOK: Pinoy father-daughter scientists discover 3 new jumping spider species in Luzon 3
Courtesy of Dr. Aimee Lynn B. Dupo

Studying spiders is actually the family legacy for the Barrions. Dupo’s father, Albert Barrion, is a spider taxonomist and the UPLB museum’s curator for spiders, parasitic hymenoptera and rice arthropods, while her mother, the late Adelina Barrion, was a spider geneticist. 

After her mother’s death, Dupo and her father have been wanting to co-write a pictorial guide on Philippine spiders. They are among the few who study spiders in the country.

“Due to budget constraints, my dad and I had to take turns joining field expeditions but we work together in writing about and describing these spiders,” Dupo said.

“There is no escaping anything when it comes to working with family. Talking about spiders is a constant thing with us. It's like sharing a language only you two can understand (which is both fun and stressful).”

LOOK: Pinoy father-daughter scientists discover 3 new jumping spider species in Luzon 4
Courtesy of Dr. Aimee Lynn B. Dupo

Despite the difficulty and the risks of doing field work, she said they continue to study spiders and their other interests.

“Even if basic sciences receive little appreciation or support, scientists should never stop exploring the country for its rich biodiversity. Most of the time we afford protection for species we can relate to and species we know we derive direct benefit from,” she said.

Dupo explained that taxonomy, or the science of classifying organisms, is “critical in the improvement of our understanding of the natural world.” 

“The more we know about what we have, the better the policies we can make in protecting their existence and the ecosystem services they provide to us (e.g. control of insect pests and food for vertebrates),” she said.

Dupo has expressed concern that, with the limited funding for research, the country might lose undiscovered insects and animals to climate change.

“Contributing to our national biodiversity inventories are also vital in monitoring the effects of climate change. And it is always a race to document species before they go extinct,” she said.