Summary for Altella lucida (Araneae)
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About this speciesDistribution
The species was found at Morden Bog, Dorset, in 1971 and 1972. There is the possibility of its having been overlooked in other areas, in view of its small size, specialised microhabitat and early maturation season. However, the lack of disturbance or burning at Morden Bog makes the habitat here very unusual and few other sites are likely to be suitable for this spider. A recent search at this site failed to find the species. A male was recorded from a house at Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire, in 1880. This was possibly a chance importation, though there were sizeable areas of wet heath in the Hoddesdon area at that time. This species is rare in France and Germany; and also recorded from Italy, Spain, Austria and Belgium.
Habitat and ecology
Heathland. The spider is found in cavities in the soil under small stones embedded in dry algal mats on bare sandy areas of dry heathland. Adults are found in April and May, occurring in small colonies.
UK Biodiversity Action Plan priority species. The species was known from only a single location, a few square metres of heath, with a population of possibly less than fifty spiders, though it has not been seen here since 1972, despite a recent search. Further survey is urgently required.
Morden Bog is an NNR. The fragility of the micro-habitat is such that even widely used heathland management practices such as controlled burning could cause damage. In the absence of such management, seral progression is a threat.
Management and conservation
The bare areas A. lucida occupied were caused by military training during the war and, because the area is very gravelly, they have not re-vegetated. It may be necessary to create new disturbed areas. In the meantime, management should concentrate on removal of pine and other tree seedlings with minimum disruption to the colony, if survey shows it still to exist. All burning should be avoided.
Text based on Dawson, I.K., Harvey, P.R., Merrett, P. & Russell-Smith, A.R. (in prep.). References
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