There are a small group of spiders belonging to the genus Phonognatha, which not only build big orb webs, but also tie up a leaf right in the middle and curl it over – forming a safe little hovel for themselves.
Only one Australian species, the Phonognatha graeffei or the Leaf curling spider, is well-studied extensively documented and photographed on the web. The rest of the species are not.
The Daily Critter proudly presents the first and only pictures of the Phonognatha vicitra that are available today on the world wide web!
With only one known Phonognatha species outside Australia/Oceania, the Phonognatha vicitra was discovered by one W. R. Sherriffs back in 1928. With only a paltry 286 hits on a Google websearch, there’s nothing on the web regarding the species apart from taxonomic references, let alone photographs.
I came across this spider in a small town called Kambalakkad in Wayanad, Kerala. Having seen quite a few leaf-dwelling  spiders before, I did not pay it as much attention as I probably should have. I was also quite new to using flash with macro photography back then, which probably explains the rather mediocre quality of the above two pictures. The latter of the two pictures illustrates the orb web of the spider fairly well.
Vicitra is a quaint English spelling of the Sanskrit word vichitra, which is also found in several other Indian languages, including my native Kannada. As spoken Kannada goes, vichitra is an adjective with a range of meanings: from a non-judgemental ‘exotic’ to a pejorative ‘weird’. Sherriffs used it for naming a spider some eighty years ago, and it appears to be an oddly appropriate descriptor for the blog as well.
Exotic at best, weird at worst. 🙂
Metadata Canon Powershot G11. ISO 80. f/4.5 at 1/60 and 1/80 second with flash. Edited using Picasa 3.8 and Adobe Photoshop CS5.
Taken in February 2011 near Kambalakkad, Wayanad district, Kerala, India.
Phonognatha vicitra was first documented in Sherriffs, W. R., 1928. South Indian Arachnology. Part III. Ann. Mag. nat. Hist. (10) 2: 177-192.
 The other leaf curling spiders that I’ve come across do not build orb webs, characteristic of the Araneidae family of spiders the Phonognatha belongs to. They instead build extremely complex three-dimensional webs with curled leafs at their centre. I am yet to identify those spiders properly. In contrast, the photos shown above are of a leaf-curling spider that used a typical two-dimensional orb web construction.
This is probably my first unarguably unique contribution to the internet! Rejoice, you series of tubes!