Tigers of the Undergrowth
“There is no ruckus of langurs, no cacophony of birds, and no trace of the hunt that just took place. The sal trees stand silent, the first rays of the sun now making their way through a crack in the canopy. Standing here, and looking all around, I can see at least seven large orb-webs of the giant wood spider spanning from tree to tree, their anchor-threads that work like beams of a building stretching as long as four metres in length. On shrubs closer to the ground, the web of an orchard spider catches the early sunlight, splitting it in the hues of a rainbow as it dances in the morning breeze. A two-tailed spider, the tree-bark hunter, waits patiently for a passing ant, its excellent camouflage hiding it from prying eyes. In this land of the tiger, another supreme predator has claimed its own niche, and is very much the tiger of the undergrowth – the spider.”
|A male Plexippus paykulii explores a moss forest - a microhabitat reminiscent of Kanha's magnificent Sal forests|
Studying the diversity of spiders of Kanha Tiger Reserve – the essence of Central Indian Highlands – was enlightening. I contributed an article in Sanctuary Asia’s August edition as an ode to this group of organism that everyone loves to hate – by drawing parallels between the tiger and the spider – both sharing astonishing similarities albeit their vast differences.
A detailed research paper on the same topic can be downloaded here.