10-year-old Montrealer finds spider never before seen in Quebec

Arachnologist Pierre Paquin says the Trachelas tranquillus found in an alleyway behind a school in Rosemont could have hitched a ride with humans from somewhere south of the border.

Arachnologist Pierre Paquin says Trachelas tranquillus found in Rosemont alleyway could have hitched ride

Fifth-grader Alessandra Nicolaescu found the spider in a green alleyway behind her school. (Anne-Louise Despatie/Radio-Canada)

Alessandra Nicolaescu, a fifth-grader at École Saint-Marc in Montreal's Rosemont neighbourhood, was "beast hunting," collecting small critters in a large fabric funnel from the green alleyway behind her school, when she found it. 

"I saw a spider. I really wanted a spider!" she recalled.

When she eagerly showed her discovery to Pierre Paquin, an arachnologist who was guiding the children through the activity, he knew she'd found something out of the ordinary.

Alessandra, who is 10, had discovered a species of spider which had never before been seen in Quebec — a female Trachelas tranquillus about the size of a thumbtack. 

Alessandra Nicolaescu and Pierre Paquin used this trap to collect the small critters. (Anne-Louise Despatie/Radio-Canada)

Paquin was familiar with the species, which is commonly found in the U.S. and in parts of Ontario. He had read about them while writing a field book, the Guide d'identification des araignées (Araneae) du Québec.

"We suspected that one day, we would find it in Quebec, but it had never been done." said Paquin. 

How did the spider end up in Montreal?

Paquin said the fact that the spider was found smack-dab in the heart of Montreal is curious.

He says there are several possible explanations.

Because it's the type of spider that often lives in houses, Paquin says, the spider could have hitched a ride with humans who travelled to Montreal from somewhere the Trachelas tranquillus commonly lives.  

The Trachelas tranquillus, pictured here, is commonly found in Ontario and in the U.S. (submitted by Jean Brodeur)

"Is it possible that she came north on her own because the climatic conditions are growing warmer?" Paquin asks. "It's possible." 

A third possibility is that Trachelas tranquillus has always lived among Montrealers, without anybody discovering it.

But now, thanks to Nicolaescu and Paquin, the Trachelas tranquillus is recognized as part of Quebec's diverse ecosystem: the two even co-wrote an article on their discovery, published in the bulletin of the Quebec amateur entomologists association.

With files from Radio-Canada


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