In November 2014 I travelled south India from the states of Kerala to Goa along the western side of the Ghats. This region receives a lot of rainfall and the climate is tropical. November marks the beginning of the dry season and the end of the summer monsoon. For this reason it is a good time to travel because there is almost no rain and the vegetation is still very green.
I spent only a few days on looking for spiders but anyways it is possible to find nice animals in those parts of the country without too much human influence which means Nature Sanctuarys. In populated areas it is mostly possible to find all kinds of garbage everywhere.
As mentioned before the climate is tropical and humid so that forests cover the uninhabitated Sanctuarys.
The humid forests of the southern part of the Western Ghats is the habitat of Poecilotheria rufilata. A large arboral Tarantula which inhabits tree holes. At daytime it is almost impossible to spot them but I was lucky to find a tree with a retreat of a specimen which just molted. The spider itself was hidden upwards so that a picture was not possible.
Tree hole occupied by Poecilotheria rufilata
The spider itself was hidden upwards
Exuvie of Poecilotheria rufilata
It is also possible to find terrestrial Theraphosid spiders in the Ghats mainly along roads but they occur only in few numbers.
Habitat of a Thrigmopoeus sp.
Burrow entrance. Interesting is the elevation made by clay so that the whole burrow looked more like an ant burrow.
Thrigmopoeus sp. at burrow entrance. It was possible to see them at daytime. The burrows had a depth of approx. 40 cm
fully grown they reached a bodylength off approx. 4 cm, Morphologically these spiders look identical to Thrighmopoeus psychedlicus,
they just lack the blueish color. T. psychedelicus shares the same habitat. Currently investigations are on its way to see weather
there are colour variations of T. psychedelicus.
Habitat and defensive behaviour of Thrigmopoeus sp.
Within the Western Ghats it is of course also possible to find a variety of Araneidae The easiest to find is Nephila pilipes because of their huge nets.
This species built itself a cover in the center of its net
A similar behaviour is known of Cyclosa spp. which use debris
Leucauge cf tessellata
Easy to find is this funnelweb spider which is quite common, a Hippasa sp.
Besides spiders there is a lot of more wildlife to see. Here a young Lycoda sp.
Giant Indian Squirrel ( Ratufa Indica )
Further north in lowlands and hills of Goa it is also possible to find theraphosid spiders. There is one species almost everywhere. Mainly on trees but also in small burrows in dirt banks or stone walls. A good tree with a lots of places to hide can contain up to 20 individuals. This species only gets about one centimeter in size but nevertheless it is very interesting in its behaviour.
Natural Habitat in Goa:
Retreats on trees
Burrows in dirtbanks
These spiders are a Plesiophrictus sp. It is not possible to make this species come out at daytime as it is very shy. Only at night they show up to wait for prey.
mature female Plesiophrictus sp.
These stones were home for dozens of individuals
The same habitat is inhabited by another Theraphosid which is much larger and colourful. Chilobrachys fimbriatus
The burrows of this species are easy to discover but also this spider only occurs in limited numbers. The burrow entrance shows a typical shape like most of the asian terrestrial theraphosid spiders.
Even though Chilobrachys fimbriatus is also very shy it is sometimes possible to tickle them out with a piece of grass during daytime
Chilobrachys fimbriatus at burrow entrance
But I was also lucky to find one living in a tree hole
Besides relaxed monkeys other spiders in this area included a lot of Nephila pilipes and Aranaeidae