XXI International Congress of Arachnology Cantebury, Lincoln University, Christchurch New Zealand 10–15 February 2019

Early bird registration has closed, accommodation is being booked as we speak, and all the abstracts for plenary and regular talks have been received. The 21st International Congress of Arachnology is well underway. arachnology.org/21st-ica-2019/christchurch-venue.html

Registration is still open, at https://goo.gl/hYhv2t with the following options in $NZ: for ISA members $520 full, or $400 students-retirees. For non ISA members $570 full, or $450 students-retirees. $320 for accompanying adults, $260 for children five years of age and older, children under five free.

Registration includes: the conference program, coffee, tea breaks, mid-Congress excursion, congress dinner and other social events (including the welcome reception, poster session and the infamous Russian party).

Congress 2019 activities will be split between two venues: Christchurch Central City YMCA and Lincoln University. Plenary talks will be held at the YMCA each morning before charter buses take attendees to Lincoln University for the regular talks.


Please book accommodation as soon as you can. There are plenty of accommodation options in the Christchurch, but February is a busy tourist time. The conference’s main accommodation partner is the Central City YMCA. They have dormitories, standard rooms, deluxe rooms and apartments.

When you book via https://goo.gl/7udvj8 use the code Arach2019 to receive a 10 per cent discount. Rooms are subject to availability and some configurations are limited. If you wish to share or have any other special requests, please email julia@ymcachch.org.n

Plenary Speakers

Eileen Hebets University of Nebraska-Lincoln, USA Sensory Systems, Learning, and Communication – Insights from Amblypygids to Humans

Martín J. Ramírez Museo Argentino de Ciencias Naturales “Bernardino Rivadavia”, Buenos Aires, Argentina Spider phylogenetics and evolution – beyond the trees 

Prashant Sharma University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA The evo-devo spyglass: a promised renaissance for morphology in an era of genomes and functional toolkits

Klaus Birkhofer Brandenburg University of Technology, Cottbus, Germany Spider communities in agricultural landscapes – response patterns and consequences for predation service


Growth, morphogenesis and developmental genetics Organiser: Prashant P. Sharma

Arachnid venoms Organiser: Greta Binford

Arachnological outreach for community engagement, conservation and research Organisers: Maria Albo and Lizzy Lowe

Island Arachnids biogeography Organisers: Sarah Boyer, Rosemary Gillespie, Julien Pétillon and Kaïna Privet

The breadth of sexual strategies and reproductive morphology in arachnids – This is just the beginning! Organisers: Anita Aisenberg and Michael Kasumovic

Jumping spiders: behaviour, ecology and evolution Organisers: Daiqin Li and Elizabeth Jakob

Outstanding Opiliones: Reproductive and population-level biology in harvestmen Organiser: Mercedes Burns

Mygalomorph spiders – evolution and conservation Organisers: Mark Harvey, Joel Huey, Mike Rix & Jeremy Wilson


Spider trait network: opportunities for a global collaboration to address broad scale ecological and evolutionary questions Organisers: Lizzy Lowe lizzy.lowe@mq.edu.au & Jonas Wolff  jonas.wolff@mq.edu.au  

10 February 2019 10am – 3pm 

Workshop aims: provide information on comparative analyses and the potential of big data analysis to answer ecological and evolutionary questions, present ideas for collaborative projects using trait data, and form working groups to address these questions, discuss possibilities for a centralized data repository to facilitate future meta-analyses. 

Speakers will give: a 10 min talk on a research project that included collection or meta-analysis of functional data across spider species; a 20 min primer on biostatistical methods or data curation; a pitch (5 min) for a potential project to use collated trait data. The pitch will be used to recruit interested collaborators and identify possibilities of data sharing to enhance impact and robustness. 

Congress 2019 Schedule and Program

Sunday 10 February registration, welcome party, workshop

Monday 11 February opening ceremony, talks, poster primers

Tuesday 12 February talks, Russian party

Wednesday 13 February  Mid-congress excursion

Thursday 14 February  talks

Friday 15 February talks, ISA meeting, closing ceremony, congress dinner

Mid-congress excursions A trip is proposed to Hinewai Reserve www.hinewai.org.nz on the Banks Peninsula. This 1250 hectare reserve is privately owned and managed by the Maurice White Native Forest Trust. A limited amount of collecting should be possible and will not require a permit. 

Other trips will depend on numbers and may include a scenic trip to Arthurs Pass.

Post congress excursion This will be a three day trip to the West Coast of the South Island. Please register for the excursion when you register for the meeting. The costs will include transport! Accommodation and food costs are to be met by participants but we will negotiate group rates with selected hotels to be listed closer to the time.

Day one 16 February travel to Wesport via Lewis Pass. 

Day two 17 February travel to Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers. 

Day three 18 February travel to Christchurch via Arthur’s Pass. 


White-tailed Spiders do not cause flesh-eating sores

A false case of necrotising arachnidism in Australia was reported to have occurred in 1982 (Sutherland) blaming the White-tailed Spider as the cause of severe skin ulcers and necrotic lesions. This was perpetuated by of articles in medical journals, general press and in TV shows.There was no direct evidence that a White-tailed Spider had actually bitten any patient. Research by Geoff Isbister and Mike Gray could not establish the White-tailed Spider was to blame for severe skin ulcerations. No White-tailed Spider in any study caused necrotic ulcers or other confirmed infections. The danger of this myth, originating in the medical community, is that doctors my ignbore the true cause of flesh eating wounds, almost always bacterial.

Email skin ulceration hoax

An email hoax about the brown recluse spider in California was changed to Australia and spread like wildfire over the internet. The Brown Recluse Spider (Loxosceles reclusa)  has never been found in Australia, although a related species occurs in Adelaide where they appear to have been accidentally introduced sometime in the past 100 years. They occur in sheds and garages and are not considered a problem. Indeed, there is no record of anyone being bitten by them, and if someone was bitten, the symptoms would be relatively benign, not like depicted in the images (progressive ulcerations of a thumb). Rick Vetter from University of California, Riverside wrote a good article http://insects.about.com/od/spiders/tp/brown-recluse-lies.htm.

In 1974 Mike Gray (Australian Museum) reported the discovery of L. rufescens in Adelaide and L. laeta in Sydney. No bites by these spiders have been recorded in Australia. “Loxoscelism” (skin ulcerations) due to L. rufescens bites appears to be much milder than that produced by L. reclusa or L.laeta. A publication of interest is Vetter, R.S. (2008) Spider of the genus Loxosceles (Araneae, Sicariidae): a review of biological, medical and psychological aspects regarding envenomations. The Journal of Arachnology 36, 150-163.

Peacock Spiders cannot fly

The first description of Salticus volans by O. Pickard-Cambridge (1874) referred to the collector having “observed them elevating and depressing the [abdominal] flaps, and also actually using them as wings or supporters to sustain the length of their leaps”. This led to  the specific epithet ‘volans‘ for this spider and  belief that these spiders actually fly or glide. The mating ‘dance’ of Maratus entails the male approaching a female. If she is receptive, he stops briefly to raise a third leg vertically which is then lowered jerkily and the other third leg is raised and lowered in the same manner. If the female is still interested the male then moves forward and becomes more excited, eventually raising both third legs and jerking them down stiffly. This is repeated many times. When the male is about three centimetres away from the female, he raises his abdomen and unfolds the side flaps, thus creating an almost circular, brightly coloured ‘target’, jerking from side to side and imperceptibly closing the distance between them. Receptive females appear to be entranced by this performance and when the male finally is within touching distance, the female is immobile and allows him to climb over her cephalothorax, turn her abdomen over and insert a pedipalp. This entire procedure can take up to two hours and when the male has discharged both pedipalps he quickly moves away from the immobile female which seems to take several seconds to recover and move off herself.