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Native Spider Named after University of Canterbury Academic

Native spider named after University of Canterbury academic

University of Canterbury Adjunct Professor of Science Communication Dr Simon Pollard has had a native spider named after him.

Trite pollardi is a small jumping spider commonly found on buildings and in gardens in both the North and South Islands.

About 5mm long, Trite pollardi is a very flat spider and looks like it has been pressed like a flower between the pages of a book, Professor Pollard says.

“Its flatness allows it to hide in very narrow crevices, which is why it is often found on the outside of houses.”

Professor Pollard says jumping spiders have excellent eyesight.

“And when you look into their two big front eyes, they tend to look back. Their six other eyes are mostly for sensing movement and distance.”

Previously, this species was called Holoplatys sp. as it did not have a species name, but was placed in the genus Holoplatys.

Recently, Marek Żabka, a jumping spider taxonomist from Poland, who had spent three months in Aotearoa New Zealand studying our native jumping spiders, revised this spider’s taxonomic status. It has been placed in the genusTrite and renamed Trite pollardi in honour of spider biologist Professor Pollard.

Professor Pollard says he feels very proud to have a native spider named after him.

“When I found out, I wanted to find one in my garden at home and tell him or her that they were named after me.”

He admitted that while the spider may have looked at him, it was very unlikely the arachnid would have appreciated the importance of the meeting.

An award-winning author, Professor Pollard spent much of 2016 advising Te Papa and Weta Workshop on the $5 million Bug Lab science exhibition, which is touring internationally. He was also the advisor for a spider sequence on the BBC David Attenborough series, The Hunt.

Professor Pollard recently gave a UC Connect public lecture on science and pseudoscience. The video of the public lecture is available on the UC Connect YouTube channel or by clicking the link: UC Connect: Science, Junk Science and how to tell the difference.


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