Arachnology – The scientific study of spiders and related animals such as scorpions collectively called arachnids. The word arachnology derives from Greek arachnē “spider”.
The Department of Arachnology was established in 1983 although some of the collection dates before that time. The collection is primarily Zimbabwean in scope with specimens collected from across the country. It is the largest and most comprehensive Arachnid collection in the country housing over 20,000 specimen lots.
The alcohol based collection is fully accessioned and partially computerised. The collection includes spiders, scorpions, solifugids, amblypygids, centipedes and millipedes, with a small collection of opilionids, mites, pseudoscorpions, and a tick reference collection.
As Arachnids, especially spiders are important predators and ecological indictors it is important that information is available in our galleries for the public. At present very few Arachnids are on display and fund raising projects are underway to add to these.
The Department assists the public and other researchers with the identification of specimens and on occasions gives lectures and public talks on arachnids. Periodic expeditions are planned and carried out to collect material for the national collection and for our special aspects of research.
Current and Future Research Areas
Research in the department has concentrated on the natural history and biogeography of the scorpions and spiders with many new species being described by museum staff and authorities in other institutions elsewhere in Africa and overseas. There are a large number of types and paratypes in the collections, including a numbers of Beier’s Pseudoscorpion Types. As scorpions are medically important the various genera occurring in Zimbabwe have recently been revised utilizing material in the collection. Research on the spider family Gnaphosidae is on-going as well as a long term arachnid monitoring program in the Matobo Hills.
Important References available from the Natural History Museum
- Amos, V (2002). An annotated type list of the Arachnid, Centipede and Millipede specimens in the Natural History Museum of Zimbabwe. Arnoldia Zimbabwe 10(21): 224-230.
- M.J. FitzPatrick (2001). The spider fauna of Zimbabwe (Arachnida: Araneae). Arnoldia Zimbabwe 10(16): 177-188.
- M.J. FitzPatrick (2016) Scorpions of Zimbabwe, an Identification Guide.