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Last Updated: Monday, 19 July, 2004, 05:56 GMT 06:56 UK
Wolf spiders patrol countryside
Wolf spider - genric
Wolf spiders jump on their prey and devour them
A group of "voracious" wolves of the eight-legged variety is roaming the Scottish countryside looking for food.

RSPB Scotland said wolf spiders have been found at its Abernethy nature reserve in Strathspey.

It said it believed the Pardosa lugubris was the first of its kind to be found in the UK.

The spiders feed by pouncing on and devouring their prey rather than by spinning a web and waiting to ensnare them.

RSPB Scotland's Neil Cowie said the species offered significant research potential.

"The news is very exciting for us because it adds to our knowledge of the species diversity that exists in Scotland," he said.

These voracious predators simply jump on their unsuspecting quarry before devouring them
Neil Cowie
RSPB Scotland
"This is the first time this wolf spider has been found in the UK but we suspect it could exist more widely than just at Abernethy.

"It's also nice to think that deep in the ancient Highland woods, there are still wolves of a sort lurking."

Mr Cowie added: "Unlike most other species, wolf spiders do not capture their prey by spinning a web and waiting for their victims to become entangled.

"These voracious predators simply jump on their unsuspecting quarry before devouring them. They tend to eat other smaller invertebrates and even other spiders, and their 'wolf' title is well deserved."

P. lugubris likes running around in the sun and at the edge of woods.

The spiders can grow to 5mm long, with a leg span of one to 1.5cm.

Mr Cowie said: "We only discovered this wolf spider after carrying out experimental management around areas where heather burning trials are taking place to benefit capercaillie."

Wolf spiders as a group are quite common in parts of the UK.

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