Tiny White Spider from Kitchen

2023 June 25

On June 25, 2023, Sandy handed me this little white spider that she found in the kitchen. It was pretty small, considering that’s the side of my index finger it is standing on. Here is a picture that is closer to actual size if you are looking at this on a reasonably large smartphone screen:

It was reasonably docile as long as it was standing on my finger, and since it was my left index finger, I still could run my camera (which, like most cameras, is designed to be operated right-handed)

I don’t think this spider was anywhere near mature.

Aside from the size, though, I recognize that face and body pattern. This looks like the same species as this much larger, fully-mature specimen from August of 2009. That would make it Enoplognatha ovata. These have several color morphs, two of which have red stripes on the abdomen, so this one would be the third one, Enoplognatha ovata lineata.

BugGuide says that these are non-native spiders, and that they overwinter as spiderlings in the leaf litter. Oddly, BugGuide didn’t say where they were native, though. Wikipedia has an entry that clarifies that they are native to Europe, but then goes on with their own cryptic statement that “it is notably found in Lithuania”. Eh? What is so notable about being found in Lithuania? I mean, I’m sure it’s a fine country and all, but it is part of Europe, where we already know these spiders live, so what’s up? Is Lithuania notably hostile to spiders? Did this species do something particularly noteworthy there? Does Lithuania just have an unusually large number of them?

Another search has not been very illuminating. Searching for “Enoplognatha ovata Lithuania” did turn up at least a dozen pages that use the same phrase as Wikipedia does, “it is notably found in Lithuania”, without explaining why this is particularly worthy of note. The only thing I’ve really turned up is that they are included on The_checklist_of_Lithuanian_spiders_Arachnida_Araneae, but so are about 445 other spider species, so I still don’t quite get why this is considered “notable”.

I suppose it is a bit like the thing that Steven Jay Gould complained about some years ago in his essay “The Case of the Creeping Fox Terrier Clone”: descriptions of the horse ancestor Eohippus almost always say that it was “about the size of a fox terrier”, even though this isn’t particularly useful, because most people only have a vague idea of what a fox terrier is or how big it might be. But, they all copied this particular phrase from an early description without thinking about it or bothering to come up with a better one. Just like the way people are saying this spider is “notably found in Lithuania” without bothering themselves about why that would be notable.

2 Responses
  1. June 29, 2023

    Now you got me curious about other things that might be “notably found in Lithuania”. Guess what, according to Google, they’re all spiders, and not the same species either. So maybe Lithuania is the spider capital of the world, or just maybe any spider found there is automatically notable for being described by that exact wording on the WWW.

    I suppose you could start describing your blog entry creatures by “notably found in Michigan” and see how far this phrasing gets copied by lazy news editors and high school research projects.

  2. July 19, 2023

    Tim: I think you are right that “notably found in Lithuania” is specific to spiders, and I suspect that somebody who had that “checklist of lithuanian spiders” probably went on Wikipedia and put that phrase onto the pages for every spider species that was on it.

    “Notably found in Michigan” appears to be a “googlewack” – it give me exactly one hit, to your comment right here. Maybe I should add that phrase to every page I have (or, at least, all the ones that were in fact found in Michigan)

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