How does one become an arachnologist, an expert on spiders?
During the race we had to do a year’s worth of work and pick a bunch of bugs. And I was interested in spiders. I stayed there for a year and then I continued to be interested. I continued researching, catching and analyzing bugs.
And was it already a childhood passion for spiders?
No. As a child I liked all animals. That’s why I studied Biology with a specialization in zoology. But as a child he did not have a special passion for spiders.
With his thesis he discovered a new species of spider in Navarre, the Agrocea Istia. Is this a triumph in the world or are there many species that we don’t know about?
There are many that we don’t know about and that appear as people study. It’s a personal achievement to find a bug and describe it, but many new spiders are described over the years.
And do the species you discovered exist in other parts of the planet?
Well I thought not. Las Bardenas is a very special spot where several factors come together. And the area where I found it, Vedado de Eguaras, is a kind of small oasis in Bardenas, a green space in the middle of the desert. Recently they sent me one from Guadalajara and another from Almería to check if they were the same.
And they were.
So, does it have more merit to find a species that is present in other areas?
Yes. If it were just from Vedado de Eguaras, in Bardenas, few people would be able to find it, but if it’s spread across the country it’s easier.
Tell me something nice about spiders. Are they used to control other insect species that may be invasive?
Yes. The future of spiders lies in using them as a biological control. On the one hand, being able to control certain crops. Spider pest control is the best possible option. Furthermore, the fact that spiders are always predators puts them in an interesting position on the trophic scale of who eats who, which makes it possible to determine the quality of an ecosystem.
How was your research for the thesis? All of Navarre was covered.
Well, it was a very good beating for a whole year. He went to each point every two weeks, but since he rotated them, every week he spent at least one day on the field. It was very funny. Going into the field is the beauty of science.
And how is the working method? Do you go to specific places where you know there are spiders?
I located points, both in Quinto Real and in Bardenas, where I could find three biotopes: the forest, the area surrounding the forest and the more open countryside. Every time I went, I tried it at the same place. And at each point there was a series of traps. In the woods of Quinto Real, five, which he visited throughout the year.
Which entity recognizes the discovery of a new species of spider?
An expert. At the time I had this specimen in my samples, I was in Barcelona working with an arachnology specialist. He confirmed that he intended it to be new. But it cost me. You have to read a lot, compare, look for articles in different languages… When you are sure that this is the case, you write an article with the evidence and send it to a specialized magazine.
In this case zootax, which is a New Zealand publication. A panel of experts certifies the tests and findings.
Yes. It’s a race. Although the species does not bear my name, my name should be mentioned in parentheses when cited. I have two more to describe that may be new.
How many species of spiders are there?
About 150,000. In Spain, there may be around 1,600. It is a privileged place.
Is Navarre a good home for spiders?
Navarra is one of the most privileged areas along with Catalonia.
In popular culture, the black widow is the deadliest species. Does it exist in Spain?
Yes. The black widow traditionally has two different species: the Latrodectus mactanswhich is in America, and the Latrodectus Tredecimguttatus, which is in Spain and Navarra. It’s a small insect, hard to find and not easy for him to bite you either. It happens whether you sit down or fall.
And what can it cause?
A black widow from Navarre for a healthy person, very little. Inflammation, severe pain… A little more. A child, an elderly person or a sick person can be killed.
Do spiders give us more benefits than problems?
Clear. And it’s a shame there aren’t more people studying them.
Well, it’s easier for people to know the word “arachnophobia” than “arachnologist”. Does this show the atavistic fear of spiders?
Yes. They are pretty impressive creatures up close. It’s very easy to be afraid. More perhaps than a lion’s teeth, which are far deadlier.
some kind of spider
Jose Antonio Barrientos
Twelve Stories by Zitarrosa
a moment of his life
reading my thesis
the big lebowski
Gabriel de Biurrun Baquedano (Pamplona, 1973) is a “zoologist passionate about taxonomy, computation and programming of spiders; mechanics, watchmaking, literature and music”. Graduated in Biology from the UN, in 2021 he defended the Arañas de Navarra thesis. Diversity and distribution. Digital study methods, which described a new species. He studied at the Jesuits, is married to Irantzu Alegría, also a biologist, and they are the parents of Iñigo (17) and Itsaso (12).