W hat I believe to be genuine and authentic the collected publications of William Colenso


Phalangium (Phrynus) cheliferoides.804



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Phalangium (Phrynus) cheliferoides.804


Bodylines long, 2 lines broad, broad-oval, smooth, firm; posterior extremity roundly-obtuse, terminating in a produced point; anterior extremity truncate; cephalothorax and abdomen in one, no perceptible separation; shield, lateral and posterior margins thickened; abdomen cylindrical, elevated, thick, slightly marked above and below with five transverse segmental markings; colour (general) when fresh, black; after immersion in spirits, dark brown-black.

Eyes, 2, globular, small, prominent on an elevated cylindrical ridge on the top of caput, but nearer to posterior margin of shield, one on each side of the elevation, which is divided in the centre and muricated; clypeus broad, studded with minute elevated black points.

Falces very long, first joint 5 lines and second joint 6 lines long, stout, cylindrical, largely chelate, thickly muricated, swollen, clavate or subpyriform for 2 lines towards top; claws (chelæ) two-thirds of a line long, arcuated, with a single large tooth in each, superior one overlapping, tips black; maxillary palpi 5-jointed 5 lines long, finely hairy throughout, mostly so at the upper part; colour pure white, red-pink at the bases and blackish at tips, which are blunt and each bearing a single minute black hook; mouth underneath, nearly central, prominent; maxillæ semi-circular; lower lip notched and both slightly hairy.

Legs, 8, very long, 2½ inches and upwards, cylindrical, and finely filiform. each with a single minute curved black hook at the tip, second pair of legs [167] the longest, measuring nearly 3 inches. Colour (after keeping in spirits) brown, variegated with many small white spots and rings which under a lens present a subtesselated appearance, those white rings are swollen and appear as if jointed, each bearing two (or more) minute black spines; coxæ large, prominent, slightly hairy, hairs patent; trochanter very short, smooth; femur 7 lines long, beset with short spinous hairs; tibia (genual joint) 1 line long, smooth; metatarsus of the second pair 6 lines long, (in the other three pairs this joint is only 3 lines long,) with a few short and scattered hairs, and four equidistant white rings; tarsus 1 inch and 8 lines long, hairy particularly towards tip, very finely annulated in the upper part and very flexible: this last joint of all the legs is exceedingly fine and flexible and curved at tip; when the animal is taken out of spirits for examination it is very difficult to keep this long last joint steady.

Sternum very small; anus produced.

Hab. In dark forests, among long mosses and Hepaticæ on the trunks of living trees 6–8 feet from the ground, “70-mile Bush,” between Norsewood and Danneverke, 1879–1881.

This curious and strange animal has greatly puzzled me, not knowing of any genus, or even family, to which it might rightly be referred. In its peculiar and prominent characters it seems to partake of more than one family of Arachnida, as they are at present constituted. In its body and long filiform legs it agrees with Phalangium, in its long chelate falces with Pseudoscorpionidæ (Cheliferidæ); it evidently has also some relationship to Thelyphonidæ through Phrynus, particularly in its extra long and filiform (antennæ-like) second pair of legs; while its large and bent maxillary palpi bear close analogy, if not affinity, with those organs in our endemic genera (of Orthoptera) Deinacrida and Hemideina. There may, however, be some known genus to which it can be hereafter rightly referred; at present I have done my best here (without modern scientific works on Arachnida), and by naming it as I have done I have placed it near to its proper place in the Natural System.

Believing this Arachnid to be very scarce, and having but one perfect specimen, I have not cared to break it up so as to examine it more narrowly, especially as to its buccal apparatus. I have only seen four specimens in the woods, throughout three years, although from my first seeing one in 1879 (which I failed to capture), I have sought most diligently for specimens. In the following year I accidentally, and most unexpectedly, saw another in the same forest, and though I tried long and arduously to secure it without smashing, I failed to do so; it spread out its long flexible legs so prodigiously, that in the end it escaped among the thick vegetation. Its [168] movements, however, were not fast; but it wore such a strange appearance —black, with its pure white palpi, and its uplifted threatening chelæ, that I, bearing in mind our small blackish katipo spider, was on my guard; perhaps too much so.805

In that same year, however, I found, in the evening, among my thick long mosses in my vasculum, one of these Arachnids, or rather the anterior half of one without its abdomen, etc.; it was still living and could crawl slowly. Subsequently, in 1881, I secured another and a perfect specimen from among the thick-growing and long Plagiochila subsimilis (and then not on the surface, but within!) How the creature can possibly manage to crawl through such fine and dense vegetation is a marvel to me. It generally keeps its long falces upright, or inclining towards its back, and bent at a sharp angle, and sometimes moves them forward alternately in progression, much like a hand or a foot: and sometimes, like its congener Chelifer (supra), holding them up with distended claws in a threatening attitude.

My second lot belong to the family Araneidæ (or True Spiders), and contain three fine species; two of them are, I believe, quite new, and one has been already described in the Trans. N.Z. Inst., but is still little known.

You will, no doubt, remember that at our ordinary meeting held here in August, 1881, I had the pleasure of bringing before you specimens of a fine spider I had then recently received from one of our country members; at that time I promised to lay before you a paper806 containing its description, habits, etc., and this I now do.

From that kind country member, Mr. J. Drummond, who resides at Te Ongaonga, I learn (in answer to several letters) that in July, 1881 (our wet season and mid-winter), while engaged in making a drain in some low-lying swampy land, he noticed several large spiders, which were dug up from about twenty inches to two feet under the surface, and though amongst black swampy soft soil, they always came out of the mud quite dry and clean, with their skins looking like velvet. [169]

The spot seems to have been a remarkably soft one, of a loose spongy muddy nature; for early in the following month (August) he thus writes:— “I found these four spiders, now sent, from one to two feet under ground; but what was black swampy soil last month, is now mud since the heavy rains. This mud seems to boil up through cracks in the upper stratum of clay. I put a bar of iron down sixteen feet, and found soft mud only, and no bottom.”

On the 19th of August he again writes: “In further carrying out your wishes I have again been a-spider-hunting, and I give you the result. I found a round hole ¾ in. in diameter in the elevated side of the drain. In carefully cutting into it I first came upon thousands of ants! I never before found so many in one spot. This hole ran nearly horizontally, and was about 6 in. in depth; it was lined throughout with spiders’ web, and its bottom was also covered with web; two spiders of small size were in the bottom of this hole. I also found two wings of an insect with the spiders at the bottom; these I also send you with them. The clay, etc., on the outside of the entrance to the hole was excavated from within and thrown down. Another similar hole had a blue-gum leaf fastened down with web across its entrance, but there was nothing in it. Another hole, which ran 8–9 inches vertically, had a big spider reposing in the bottom. I could not find any more large spiders, but there are plenty of small ones left. None feigned death on being captured; on the contrary they always ran nimbly away, endeavouring to hide themselves by getting under anything. They run very quickly with their legs spread out all round. One of the largest (of those I first sent you) when dug out fell from off the shovel into the drain, and immediately dived under the liquid mud! I plunged the shovel in after it and brought up a shovel-full of mud, and the spider was among it, looking as clean and dry as if it had never been in it, which quite surprised me. Their colours, I find, are much darker after being immersed in the spirits; the yellow stripes are not near so bright as when they were living, and their velvety appearance wholly gone.”

Since receiving the foregoing communications, I have had at various times down to the present, several letters from Mr. Drummond, but nothing additional of consequence has been discovered. I much wished to obtain a specimen of a male; for, although I have received several specimens, both large and small, they are all females; and I regret to say that I have not yet succeeded. This, however, is no uncommon occurrence among the Araneidæ, as it is well known that the males are everywhere fewer in number than the females and consequently much more rarely met with; besides, I believe it is pretty well ascertained, that among the Territelariæ, or trap-door spiders, the male is never found within those holes or tubes. And as [170] there are at least two distinct divisions or families of trap-door spiders inhabiting Europe, (the one with a bung-like or cork-door lid fitted into its nest, and the other with a wafer or flapdoor lid to fall down over its entrance; some of these last-mentioned having also a second door of thick web fitted on a kind of hinge within the tube), I greatly wished to know, if possible, under which division this one should be classed; but down to the present have learned nothing more respecting the lid, or door, though Mr. Drummond has zealously sought after it. Moreover, there is yet another closely-related family (or division) of spiders, living in holes and cracks, which, while they also spin a web within, do not make any door to their nests or holes: these are called Tubitelariæ.



The Order of Araneidæ (or True Spiders) is an immense one; it is largely represented here in New Zealand, and is daily increasing in books from everywhere. I have noticed in vol. xxx. of the “Linnæan Transactions” (published in 1874), that the Rev. O.P. Cambridge has given a corrected and enlarged list of the number of British spiders alone, containing 78 genera and 457 species, while the number of the foreign ones is legion! This extensive Order has been from time to time subdivided into families and genera, which have been often altered, insomuch that it requires an expert—and a highly-skilled one too—to pronounce certainly on any species. Therefore I have concluded not to attempt to fix on any known genus of Araneidæ as being that to which this spider (and another I shall also this evening bring before you) properly belongs, for I have not that special knowledge requisite, neither have we here the modern scientific works on spiders which would assist us in our search. This, however, will not prove to be a very formidable hindrance to our shortly knowing something more definite about these two spiders, for I intend sending specimens by an early mail to England, to the Rev. O.P. Cambridge (one of our greatest modern British araneologists) for his judgment and determination. This gentleman has already described some of our large New Zealand spiders in the Trans. N.Z. Inst.,807 and among them is also a trap-door spider from Otago, sent him thence by Professor Hutton and Mr. Gillies; but that species is a different one from our two contained in this paper, although it may be not distantly and naturally allied to them. From the disposition of the eyes of these two spiders, I doubt their belonging to the same genus as the trap-door spider from Otago described by him.


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