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Wed 5th December 2012 08:31 by Peter Harvey
Basically it is exceptionally unwise to get into attempting to identify 95% of the British spider fauna to species level from juveniles, or from photographs, except where one is going to rear them through to confirm the identification of the adults. The bulk of the discipline is based on mature sexual characters for a very good reason! Identifications without examination of these will result in wrong identifications and worse than bad data. In many species variability in coloration, pattern and shape can be large, even in adults, but also in juveniles and changes through development.

The modern fashion that all and anything can be identified from a photograph, including photographs of juveniles, will also simply result in a lot of incorrect records and web traffic for no good purpose. I would certainly say that the spider pictured at http://www.flickr.com/photos/mickmassie/6931647794/ link link is indeed likely to be an Araniella species and not A. alsine. People jump to the conclusion just from the colour that an araneid must be A. alsine when plenty of garden spider Araneus diadematus can be orange for example, a large proportion of Araniella juveniles can be orange and so on. Araneus diadematus can usually be distinguished by the abdominal markings, including in juveniles, but these are also very variable and sometimes indistinct. Araniella species certainly cannot be reliably determined without microscopical examination, and even then can be difficult.

Other than the very small proportion of species where for various reasons it is safe to assume a juvenile identification, adults are a must. The only way of getting experience of juveniles and making PROVISIONAL identifications in the field or from photographs is by examining a lot of adult spiders under a microscope over a great many years and rearing juveniles through.

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