Student-Faculty Research Team Finds Spider Indigenous to Central Europe on the William Paterson Campus

Aldrick Espinosa examines a spider with guidance from Dr. Joseph Spagna

A species of spider that has never before been documented in New Jersey - Pseudeuophrys erratica, indigenous to Central Europe - was discovered on William Paterson University's Wayne campus by two honors biology students.

Under the direction of associate professor of biology Joseph Spagna, Aldrick Espinosa '19 and Dylan Lewin '19 spent the summer collecting insects on campus and analyzing their taxonomy and DNA barcoding for identification purposes. The students' surprising find of the Pseudeuophrys erratica, Spagna says, suggests more surprises to come. The professor is in the early stages of deploying an arthropod biodiversity survey of the campus, with plans to have students studying insects here every spring and summer in order to compile research for publication. His mission: to decipher whether climate change and population change in the region will impact the biodiversity of WP's campus over time.

Espinosa began work on Spagna's biodiversity survey in the summer of 2016. Since then, approximately 60 species of insects have been identified on campus. However, all of those insects were captured in daytime hours. Most insects come out at night, Spagna notes, explaining that his survey will be expanding to include nocturnal captures.

Lewin joined the research project in 2017, along with fellow honors biology students Karisa Quimby '20 and Elika Moallem '20 - the latter duo also surveying insect species in the neighboring High Mountain Preserve. All four will continue their work in 2018.

Three samples of the Pseudeuophrys erratica, a tiny jumping spider that measures approximately 3 millimeters long, were found on a juniper bush in front of College Hall, just off of the bustling thoroughfare of Hamburg Turnpike. These spiders, Spagna says, are particularly abundant in Germany and, due to their affinity for walls, are known for taking up residence outside of buildings and homes. The professor does not expect the spider's appearance in New Jersey to have a strong ecological impact. A close relative of the species is known to live in New York State and Washington.

How did the tiny spiders make their way to the Garden State from Europe? Spagna suspects that they traveled in plant material, because they hunt for little bugs to eat on the leaves of plants.

Espinosa's research with Spagna thus far has been funded through the GS-LSAMP (Garden State Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation), a non-medical science program which aims to increase the number of minorities in STEM fields. The other students have been funded through the College of Science and Health and Provost's Office funds.