Mineola High School senior Gabrielle Ward discovered what is believed to be a new species of spider while conducting science research at Dowling College in December. Her mentor Dr. Richard Wilkens confirmed that the spider did not fit either of the two species specifications in its genus and that it is a potentially new species altogether.
The genus and species are referred to as the binomial classification of all living creatures and are part of the larger taxonomic classification system. The process for confirming if the spider is in fact a new species will take up to one year to complete.
As part of Ward’s science research, she was responsible for classifying all spiders that were found living in a gall taken from the burn zone of the Pine Barrens on Long Island. Once their eggs hatch and their larvae are gone, a gall remains on the leaf and is typically inhabited by other insects and spiders. Ward’s research was part of a collective study titled “The Abandoned Gall Project” that Dr. Wilkens has been studying for the past two years.
In order for the species to be accepted as “new” in the science world, Ward and Dr. Wilkins must publish a paper that details the characteristics of the new species. That paper must be reviewed by a group of peers in the field and verified. Once verified, the paper is published and the new species is added to the books. Ward, in addition to Dr. Wilkens, will be getting credit for the discovery of the spider, if it is accepted.
The spider, which is part of the family Salticidae and the genus Sarinda, is smaller in size than a dime and is part of the jumping spider family. After the peer review is completed, this new species will be named Jackper, a name which Gabrielle chose in honor of a boy she used to babysit for who passed away three years ago from cancer. The entire process can take up to one year before the paper is published.