Data on the spider fauna of the Maghreb are incomplete and the available information concerns only some parts of this region. In the present contribution, new distribution data on the genus Larinia Simon, 1874 in the Maghreb are given, including the first record of Larinia chloris (Audouin, 1826) in Algeria from two wetlands in the northern Sahara. Photos of male palps and female epigynes as well as maps of the known and new records of Larinia chloris and L. lineata (Lucas, 1846) are presented.
The family Araneidae currently comprises 177 genera, and the genus Larinia contains 58 species (World Spider Catalog 2019). Thirteen species have been recorded from Africa, but only two of them occur in the Palaearctic part: L. chloris and L. lineata. The male of L. chloris was described as Epeira chloris by Audouin (1826), in a paper on the spiders of Egypt and Syria. The juvenile female was described much later as Larinia flavescens by Simon (1882), in a paper on the spiders of Yemen. The synonymy of the two was discovered by Grasshoff (1970) in an important paper on the classification of the family Araneidae, in which the genus Larinia was also well presented. It is important to mention a great similarity of L. chloris to L. phtisica (L. Koch, 1871), as discussed by Grasshoff (1970, 1973) and Framenau & Scharff (2008), which led to questions about the status of these species. The female of L. lineata was described for the first time by Lucas (1846) as Epeira lineata from Sétif in his work on the spiders of Algeria. Later, the male was described by Simon (1895).
In the Maghreb, the genus Larinia is known only from two species: L. lineata, recorded in Algeria (Lucas 1846, Simon 1899, 1929, Grasshoff 1970), Morocco (Simon 1909, 1929, Jocqué 1977) and Tunisia (Pavesi 1880) and L. chloris from Libya (Simon 1908, Caporiacco 1936). The aim of this study is to present new localities for the species belonging to the genus Larinia in the studied region.
Material and methods
The study area comprises the whole of the Maghreb (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya) and the region of Ghardaïa (Algeria) in particular. This Saharan region is characterized by a hot, arid climate with a mild winter. As an example, the annual recorded precipitations and mean temperatures during 2017 were 33.79 mm, 22.5 °C for Ghardaïa and 65.28 mm, 22.8 °C for El Menia (Algeria).
Due to the aridity and the scarcity of precipitation in this region, two wetlands are of note: Kef Doukhane, located at 600 km to the south of the capital Algiers, at 390 to 430 m a.s.l. It is a channel in a riverbed of about 22 km length, supplied by treated wastewater from the treatment plant of El Atteuf. It passes different rocky and sandy structures and is characterized by vegetation on the banks, hosting several species of birds, reptiles and other animals (Fig. 1). The other is Sebkhet El Melah Lake, located in the centre of Algeria (30.4166°–30.5333°N and 2.9000°–2.9333°E). This Ramsar wetland (Fig. 2) was described by Alioua et al. (2016).
CRB: Collection Robert Bosmans
CYA: Collection Youcef Alioua
MNHN: National Museum of Natural History, Paris
Sampling. Material was collected in Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia from 1984 to 2018. Between 2016 and 2018, individuals of L. chloris were collected by the first author directly from vegetation around the fresh water basin of Sebkhet El Melah and the Wadi Kef Doukhane. The specimens were preserved in 70% ethanol. A stereomicroscope (Nikon SMA 1270) was used for specimens' examination and a Moticam camera mounted on a Realux microscope and Olympus SZX7 stereomicroscope to take photographs of the spiders. The individuals of L. lineata were collected by the second author directly or with a sweep net, between 1984 and 1990 in Algeria, during 1999 in Morocco and in 1985 and 2003 in Tunisia.
Determination. L. chloris and L. lineata were determined according to the paper of Grasshoff (1970).
Larinia Simon, 1874
Type species: Epeira lineata Lucas, 1846
Larinia chloris (Audouin, 1826) (Figs 3-8, 10)
Taxonomic references are cited in World Spider Catalog (2019).
New records. ALGERIA: Ghardaïa: El Menia: Sebkhat El Melah Lake (30.5357°N, 2.9174°E), 373 m a.s.l., 1 ♀, low vegetation 25 m from water, 25. Feb. 2016, Sebkhat El Melah Lake (30.5109°N, 2.9269°E), 370 m a.s.l. 1 ♀, 20 m from water, 25. Feb. 2017; Kef Doukhane River (32.4193°N, 3.8841°E), 410 m a.s.l, 8 ♂♂, 2 ♀♀, on vegetation near the river, 14. Oct. 2017, 5 ♀♀, same habitat, 21. Oct. 2017, 4 ♂♂, 5 ♀♀, same habitat, 20. Nov. 2018 (CRB, CYA).
Distribution. Southern and Eastern Mediterranean, sub-Saharan Africa, south of the Arabian Peninsula and Indian subcontinent (World Spider Catalog 2019).
Larinia lineata (Lucas, 1846) (Figs 9, 11)
Taxonomic references are cited in the World Spider Catalog (2019).
TUNISIA: Medjerda River (as Magerdah; Pavesi 1880).
New records. ALGERIA: Alger: Bab Ezzouar University Campus (36.7106°N, 3.17841°E), 14 m a.s.l., 1 ♀, among stones, 1. Dec. 1986, R. Bosmans leg. (CRB). Bejaia: Tichy (36.6667°N, 5.1667°E), 5 m a.s.l., 1 ♂, on herbs in dunes, 21. May 1988, R. Bosmans leg. (CRB). Biskra: Baniane (34.9833°N, 6.0499°E), Gorges de l'Oued El Abiodh, 350 m a.s.l., 1 ♂, on herbs along the river, 3. Nov. 1987, R. Bosmans leg. (CRB). El Bayad: Les Arbaouats (33.0883°N, 0.5781°E), 900 m a.s.l., 1 ♂, on Phragmites around a small pool, 20. Jan. 1988, R. Bosmans leg. (CRB). Guelma: Hammam Meskoutine (36.4599°N, 7.2708°E), 410 m a.s.l., 1 ♀, on grasses, 28. Feb. 1990, R. Bosmans leg. (CRB). M'sila: Bou Saada (35.2142°N, 4.1825°E), 560 m a.s.l., 1 ♂, in irrigated garden of hotel, 21. May 1987, R. Bosmans leg. (CRB). Saida: Merdja Maison Forestière (36.1333°N, 3.3167°E), 750 m a.s.l., 1 ♀, on herbs along small rivulet in mixed Fraxinus, Platanus and Populus forest, 4. May 1984, R. Bosmans leg. (CRB). Tlemcen: Col d'Hafir, Oued Tafna (35.2972°N, 1.4683°W), 900 m a.s.l., 1 ♀, sweeping in irrigated orchard, 5. May 1984, R. Bosmans leg. (CRB).
MOROCCO: Marrakech-Safi: Chichaoua (31.5272°N, 8.7628°W), 371 m a.s.l., 1 ♀, 8. Jul. 1999, R. Bosmans leg. (CRB).
TUNISIA: Beja: Oued Zerga (36.6833°N, 9.4166°E), 300 m a.s.l., 1 ♂, on herbs in Olea orchard, 12. Sep. 1985, R. Bosmans leg. (CRB). Kairouan: Haffouz E. (35.6667°N, 9.6667°E), 387 m a.s.l., 1 ♀, 27. Jan. 2003, R. Bosmans leg. (CRB).
Distribution. Western Mediterranean (Morocco to Tunisia, Portugal, Spain, France) (World Spider Catalog 2019). In the Maghreb, the species appears to be common in the northern parts.
Distinguishing both species
Males can be readily recognised by the structure of their palpal organs. In Larinia chloris, the median apophysis ends in two short, pointed processes (Figs 7, 8), which are much longer in L. lineata (Fig. 9). Females of Larinia chloris are distinguished from L. lineata by the epigyne being 1.5 times as wide as long in Larinia chloris (Fig. 10), and as wide as long in L. lineata (Fig. 11). The epigynal scape is often broken off, as in Fig. 10, which does not facilitate identification. Characters useful for separating the two species occurring in the Maghreb are adequately described by Grasshoff (1973), Tikader (1982), Levy (1986) and Kunt et al. (2012).
Larinia chloris was captured on low vegetation in Sebkhet El Melah and on leaves of Nicotiana glauca Graham, 1826 in Kef Doukhane. It is very rare at the first locality but common on vegetation along the river at the second one. According to Levy (1986), the species is found at humid sites in Israel. Kunt et al. (2012) collected it at a similar locality near the Firat River (Turkey), and Denis (1947) around the Shiata Lake (Libya). Our observations are in accordance with these previously published data, since both our localities are humid. Apparently, L. chloris prefers humid and hot areas with dense vegetation providing web support. The new record in Algeria is the most western point of L. chloris' known distribution (Fig. 12).
Larinia lineata, on the other hand, was captured at several localities in the more northern parts of Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia (Fig. 13), from the coast to the steppe region. It prefers various habitats in small wetlands along rivulets, springs and even irrigated gardens.
We would like to thank Pierre Oger for his help in photographing specimens. We also express our thanks to Prof. Johan Mertens and Dr. Lynda Beladjal (University of Ghent) for their excellent technical assistance.