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News Clippings

20 January 1995 (Daily Telegraph)

Entomologist finds Britain's 640th spider
By Roger Highfield, Science Editor

A SPIDER unknown in Britain has been discovered in a carpet of quivering moss on a bog in Cheshire by scientists, Liverpool Museum reported yesterday.
The eight millimetre, black spider lives at Wybunbury Moss, a 15ft-thick layer of vegetation that supports trees, bushes and unique wildlife above a 40ft-deep pool of water.

Gnaphosa nigerrima was identified by entomologist Mr Chris Felton.

The spider emerged as a bonus when English Nature asked for the population of another spider unique to Wybunbury Moss - Carorita limnea - to be checked.

Examples of a much larger and darker spider than Carorita limnea were found, and Mr Felton recognised them as Gnaphosa nigerrima, which has previously been found only in northern continental Europe.

Wybunbury Moss was already acknowledged as a scientifically important site. A tiny spot near the Cheshire village of Wybunbury, it is at the centre of a tree-covered bowl. Dead trees, killed when their roots break through to the acidic water below dot the moss and sway when it is walked on.

Sphagnum moss, which will grow only in these acidic conditions, has over the years formed a thick mat over the surface. Without the encircling trees, the moss and its unique collection of wildlife and plants would be destroyed.

The Natural History Museum's spider specialist, Mr Paul Hillyard, said it was "a unique find". There are now 640 species of British spiders."

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