- Schlinger Chair of Arachnology Postdoctoral Fellow
Using and improving methods of taxonomy. Carrying out taxonomic revisions and writing monographs
Virtually all other disciplines in biology depend on alpha-taxonomy – the naming of species and the development of identification keys and other diagnostic tools. Taxonomy - naming and grouping things and managing a consistent working system for the names and groups - is a thing that every human (or in their own ways, every living creature) does. No matter what you are dealing with, whether friends or enemies, or different kinds of cars, cosmetics, rocks, clouds, movies, rockbands or bacteria, plants, tsetse flies, jumping spiders, birds or flatworms, you'll apply very similar or even the same methods to name and to group these kinds of things and transfer this information to those who share the same interest with you. "We are all taxonomists ". Knowing the living world surrounding us is amongst the most important things we shall do. The importance of taxonomy is unfortunately not widely recognized, even more sadly not even among biologists. Upcoming threats such as the misconception of "DNA taxonomy" and the misuse of "DNA barcoding" distract a lot of attention and resources in a very critical time. We - humans - now urgently need taxonomists, who are able to identify specimens, even the vouchers for DNA barcoding. I try to prove the relevance of taxonomy by carrying out revisions that provide data for upcoming systematic works. Being a postdoc at the California Academy of Sciences gives me an excellent opportunity to do taxonomy because this gives me access to a large collection of spiders and all the necessary tools.
Taxonomic revision, phylogeny and biogeography of hisponine spiders.
Salticidae are the most speciose (i.e., including the largest number of species) spider family. They are very easy to recognise by the huge eyes located on the frontal - facial - part of the carapace. This feature has given them a huge boost to their adaptive radiation which took place probably somewhen within the Mesozoic. They are very frequent in Baltic amber inclusions, which are younger than Cretaceous deposits. The subfamily Hisponinae is very easy to recognise by the characteristic constriction behing the PMEs and hisponines are amongst the most frequent inclusions in Baltic amber, including more extinct than extant genera. Hispo Simon, 1886, Tomocyrba Simon, 1900 and Massagris Simon, 1900, are known from Madagascar, Africa and India. The genera have been united due to this carapace constriction, but no formal phylogenetic analysis has been carried out to test this classification, i.e., to demonstrate that the character is a synapomorphy. The living genera Hispo and Massagrishave both been taxonomically revised recently by Wanless and Wesolowska respecitively, while the genus Tomocyrba studied by Nikolaj Scharff and myself. A paper (PDF) has just been published where we found characters to clarify the limits of Tomocyrba, which is a Malagasy endemic. Tomocyrba includes two species only, Tomocyrba decollata and T. barbata. The other species formerly of "Tomocyrba" include five in East Africa that belong to Tomomingi, while Tomocyrba andasibe from Madagascar belongs to Tomobella. We described several species new to science, but many more await discovery. During my postdoc year in the California Academy of Sciences I'd like to improve our knowledge about these spiders, which seem to be in a key position to answer questions also about the phylogeny of jumping spiders. The genus Hispo is far more diverse than any of the other genera, which have an interesting distribution which will allow us to test different biogeographic scenarios concerning colonization of and radiation in Madagascar. Recent findings (see an examplehere) will provide finer resolution to an upcoming phylogenetic study, based on both morphology and molecules.
From where the world ends - biogeoraphy, taxonomy and systematics of giant goblin spiders (Haplogyne: Orsolobidae)
The dysderoid spider family Orsolobidae presents a strikingly disjunct distribution at the southern end of the world. Orsolobids are diverse in New Zealand, common in Chile, widespread in the moister parts of Australia, and scattered among afromontane forests in southern Africa. Extensive recent fieldwork suggests that they do not occur in Madagascar. A global phylogeny for this family may allow us to test alternative historical biogeographic scenarios in the southern hemisphere including vicariance generated though the effects of continental drift on the former Gondwanaland and austral transoceanic dispersal. I am studying giant goblin spiders together with Charles Griswold and Anthea Carmichael with a multigene phylogeny approach for multiple orsolobid genera from Australia, Chile, New Zealand, and South Africa, representatives of the other dysderoid families Dysderidae, Oonopidae and Segestriidae, and haplogyne outgroup taxa including Caponiidae and Tetrablemmidae. I am also very much interested in a generic revision of the family. Despite the enormous efforts carried out in the past (Platnick & Forster 1985, Griswold & Platnick 1987 Platnick & Brescovit 1994) much work remains to be done. There is no generic key published, and genera are not organized to higiher level groups. As investigator of the Oonopid PBI project I try to contribute to the taxonomic knowledge of the Orsolobidae genera.
Hard to reach to low branches? - Basal salticid phylogeny
Salticids are most likely are among the youngest spider families. They just "appeared" in the fossil record in the Eocene, and then conquered all suitable habitats. Due their cursorial life style, they are frequent Cenozoic amber inclusions, and it seems they rapidly radiated. Around 90% of the species belong to a single clade called Salticoida, where most of the species have simple genitalia, which is often used as the main character system in other spiders. Probably this is why such a comprehensive morphology based phylogeny is not available as for many other spider families (e.g. among araneoids). Some analyses including only a few genera, however, are present (e.g. in Ballinae genera) in the literature. Probably their quick adaptive radiation is responsible for the mystery of the sistergroup of jumping spiders, however there is a strong attempt to solve this question at this very moment by Martín Ramírez.
Huge advances have been made on the molecular systematics of the family: the Maddison lab has carried out the most dense sampling on the family as a whole, and separate studies aiming few basal branches as well. During my stay in the California Academy of Sciences I'd like to take advantages of the diverse collection present here, and try to collect morphological data to make a working hypothesis for the relationships among the basal lineages of jumping spiders.
Comparative morphology of spiders
Morphology studies (especially in spiders) are enjoying a renaissance (e.g. Entelegyne atlas). New and rediscovered methods provide us with new insights on spider morphology. I'd like to use all available tools (like the SEM; digital imaging, microtome) to study the morphology of jumping spiders in greater detail than before, and to collect data for an upcoming phylogenetic analysis. Diverse and well maintained collections such as at CAS will be a great asset to carry out such an ambitious plan. Predecessors such as the AToL and the Goblin spider PBI provide a vast number of good hints, successful protocols and also illustrate pitfalls of such ambitious studies. This is a good opportunity to look for new characters, or character systems, which may allow us to solve phylogeny within the jumping spiders.
Jozsef Attila University, Szeged, Hungary. Ecologist, M.Sc., 1999
University of Szeged, Szeged, Environmental Sciences, Ph.D., 2004
Zoological Museum of Copenhagen, Department of Entomology, Postdoctoral Fellow, 2006-2009 (Marie Curie and Carlsberg).
California Academy of Sciences: Schlinger Chair of Arachnology Postdoc (2010-present)
Hungarian Natural History Museum: Assistant Curator (1999-2005),
Systematic Zoology Research group of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Research Fellow (2001-2004)
- Classification, phylogeny and evolution of spiders, especially jumping spiders with references to historical biogeography and to evolution.
- Monographs of spiders.
- Homology hypotheses of morphological traits.
- Eotvos Lorandt University, Budapest: Systematic Zoology lectures 2001-2004;
Marie Curie Intra European Fellowship, Zoological Museum and University of Copenhagen 2006-2008.
Carlsberg Postdoctoral Fellowship, Zoological Museum and University of Copenhagen 2009.
Junior research fellow award of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, 2004.
Bolyai Reasearch Award, 2005.
Szuts, T. & N. Scharff 2009. Revision of the living members of the genus Tomocyrba Simon, 1900 (Araneae, Salticidae). In Kropf, C., Horak, P. (Eds.) Towards a Natural History of Arthropods and other Organisms - in memoriam Konrad Thaler, Contributions to Natural History 12: 1337-1373. PDF
Szinetar, Cs., Eichardt, J. & Szuts, T. 2009. The first lowland species of the alpine ground spider genus Parasyrisca (Araneae: Gnaphosidae) from Hungary. Zookeys. 16: 197-208. PDF
Blackledge, T. A., Scharff, N., Coddington, J., Szuts, T., Wenzel, J., Hayashi, C. & Agnarsson, I. 2009. Reconstructing web evolution and spider diversification in the molecular era. PNAS 106: 5229-5234. PDF
Cardoso, P., Henriques, S., Gaspar, C. Crespo, L., Carvalho, R. Birkedal-Schmidt, J. Sousa, P. & Szuts, T. 2009. Species richness and composition assessment of spiders in a Mediterranean scrubland. Journal of Insect Conservation. 13:45–55. PDF
Batary, P., Baldi, A., Samu, F., Szuts, T. & Erdos, S. 2008. Are spiders reacting to local or landscape scale effects in Hungarian pastures? Biological Conservation. 141: 2062-2070. PDF
Cardoso, P., Scharff, N., Gaspar, C., Henriques, S., Carvalho, R., Castro, P., Birkedal-Schmidt, J., Silva, I., Szuts, T., Castro, A. & Crespo, L. 2008. Rapid biodiversity assessment of spiders (Araneae) using semi-quantitative sampling: a case study in a Mediterranean forest. Insect Conservation and Diversity. 1 (2): 71 - 84. PDF
Baldi, A., Batary, P., Erdos, S., Kisbenedek, T., Orci. K.M., Orosz, A., Podlussany, A., Redei, D., Redei, T., Rozner, I., Sarospataki, M., Szel, Gy. & Szuts, T. 2007. Legeles intenzitasanak hatasa alfoldi gyepek biodiverzitasara. Termeszetvedelmi Kozlemenyek 13: 249-258. [in Hungarian] PDF
Batary, P., Baldi, A. Erdos, S., Kisbenedek, T., Orci, K.M., Orosz, A., Podlussany, A., Redei, D., Redei, T., Rozner, I., Sarospataki, M., Szel, G. & Szuts, T. 2007. Tajszerkezet es legeltetes hatasa alfoldi gyepek biológiai sokfelesegere. In: A Karpat-medence allatvilaganak kialakulasa. Magyar Termeszettudomanyi Muzeum, Budapest. Pp 341-348. [in Hungarian] PDF
Szuts, T. & Rollard, Ch. 2007. Redescription of the genus Tarne Simon, 1886 (Araneae: Salticidae) Insect Systematics and Evolution 38: 427-432. PDF
Szuts, T. 2007. (2005) Illustrations and redescriptions of Simon’s little known salticid taxa from West-Africa (Araneae: Salticidae) Opuscula Zoologica 36: 85-96 PDF
Szuts, T. & Scharff, N. 2005. Redescription of little known jumping spider genera (Araneae: Salticidae) from West Africa. Acta Zoologica Hungarica 51 (4): 349-370. PDF
Szuts, T. 2004. A revision of the genus Bristowia (Araneae: Salticidae). Folia entomologica hungarica 65: 25-31. PDF
Szuts, T. & De Bakker, D. 2004. Taxonomical relevance of the clypeal setae in Thorelliola (Araneae: Salticidae). Folia entomologica hungarica. 65: 13-24. PDF
Szuts, T. 2003a. New species of Agorius Thorell, 1877 (Araneae: Salticidae) from New Guinea. Acta Zoologica Hungarica 49 (1): 61-69. PDF
Szuts, T. 2003b. A new species of Eburneana Wesolowska & Szuts with notes on the biogeography and morphology of the genus (Araneae: Salticidae). Genus 14 (3): 419-424. PDF
Szuts, T. 2003c. On remarkable jumping spiders (Araneae: Salticidae) from Papua New Guinea. Folia entomologica hungarica 64: 41-58 PDF
Szuts, T., Szinetar, Cs., Samu, F. & Szita, e. 2003. Check list of the Hungarian Salticidae with biogeographical notes. Arachnologische Mitteilungen 25: 45-61. PDF
Wesolowska, W. & Szuts, T. 2003. A new species of Asemonea from equatorial Africa (Araneae: Salticidae: Lyssomaninae). Folia entomologica hungarica 64: 59-62. PDF
Szuts, T. & Wesolowska, W. 2003. Notes on Depreissia myrmex Lessert, 1942 (Araneae: Salticidae). Folia entomologica hungarica. 64: 345-347. PDF
Szuts, T. 2002a. Remarks on the genus Corambis Simon, 1901 (Salticidae: Araneae).Folia entomologica hungarica. 63: 23-31. PDF
Szuts, T. 2002b. Description of a new horned jumping spider species, Thorelliola mahunkai (Araneae: Salticidae) from New Guinea.Folia entomologica hungarica.63: 17-22. PDF
Szuts, T. & Azarkina, G. 2002. Redescription of Aelurillus subaffinis Caporiacco, 1947 (Araneae: Salticidae). Annales Historico-Naturales Musei Nationalis Hungarici 94: 209-216. PDF
Szita, e., Szinetar, Cs. & Szuts, T. 2002. Faunistical investigations on the spider fauna (Araneae) of the Ferto-Hansag National Park. In: Mahunka, S. (ed.) Fauna of the Ferto-Hansag National Park. Hungarian Natural History Museum, Budapest. pp. 231-244. PDF
Szuts, T. 2001. Description of a new Goleba species from the African continent (Araneae: Salticidae). Annals Musee Royal de l'Afrique Centrale (Sciences Zoologiques) 285: 111-116. PDF
Szuts, T. & Jocque, R. 2001a. A revision of the afrotropical spider genus Palfuria (Araneae: Zodariidae). Journal of Arachnology 29: 205-219. PDF
Szuts, T. & Jocque, R. 2001b New species in the genus Bacelarella (Araneae: Salticidae) from Côte d`Ivoire. Annals Musee Royal de l'Afrique Centrale (Sciences Zoologiques) 285: 77-92. PDF
Jocque , R. & Szuts, T. 2001. Bacelarella (Araneae: Salticidae) in eastern Côte d`Ivoire: salticid radiation in a poorly lit enviroment. Annals Musee Royal de l'Afrique Centrale (Sciences Zoologiques) 285: 93-100. PDF
Wesolowska, W. & Szuts, T. 2001. A new genus of ant-like jumping spiders from Africa (Araneae: Salticidae). Annales Zoologici (Warsawa) 51 (4): 523-528. PDF
Szuts, T. 2000. An Afrotropical species, Asemonea stella (Araneae: Salticidae) found in Australia. Folia entomologica hungarica 61: 61-63. PDF