​Natural history museums are not only responsible for the curation, preservation and management of specimens in collections, but also for providing accurate and current biodiversity information in the form of up-to-date faunal inventories with locality data. As signatories to the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD), South Africa is obliged to develop a strategic plan for the conservation and sustainable utilization of this unique biological heritage. The CBD has shown us the importance of good biodiversity data, and has contributed to renewed interest in specimen databases of natural history collections.

The South African National Collection of Arachnida (excluding the Acari) was established in 1976 under the Biosystematics Programme at the ARC-Plant Protection Research Institute, The National Collection of Arachnida (NCA) is one of the most comprehensive and fastest growing collections of arachnids in South Africa. It contains 60,165 accessions represented by approximately 180,495 alcohol preserved specimens sampled mainly in South Africa. It serves as an invaluable scientific reference source and research tool as well as an archive of South Africa's arachnid biodiversity.

The National Collection of Arachnida (non-Acari), NCA, is one of the South Africa's Agricultural National Public Assets that the ARC man- ages and maintains on behalf of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) and the Department of Science and Technology (DST). The NCA contains a wealth of associated taxonomic, biological and biogeographical information.

The NCA provides a one-stop specimen identification and advisory service to government, farmers, industry, researchers, students and the public. The NCA consists of:

  • The National Collection of Spiders and other non-Acarine Arachnida

  • Spider Type Specimen Collection

The collection was established in 1976. A large percentage of the specimens contained in the NCA were collected:

  • Within agro-ecosystems through surveys that span periods of a year or more

  • Surveys undertaken during the South African National Survey of Arachnida (SANSA)

  • Four long-term surveys (Soutpansberg, Drakensberg-SaniPass, Cederberg Mountains and Iimbovane) managed by the DST-NRF Centre for Invasion Biology looking at the possible effect of climate change

  • Surveys in several national parks and reserves

  • Surveys as part of the National Research Foundation Thuthuka project for the Savanna and Grassland Biome

  • By catches or several student and other national projects

Arachnida orders housed in NCA


ARANEAE (Spiders)
53,957 accessions representing:
72 families, 508 genera & 1574 species

AMBLYPYGI (Whipspiders)

147 accessions representing:
1 family, 2 genera & 4 species

​OPILIONES (Harvestmen)

909 accessions representing;
5 families, 12 genera & 48 species


1,116 accessions representing:
8 families, 11 genera & 9 species

​SCORPIONES (Scorpions)

3,021 accessions representing;
3 families, 9 genera & 69 species

​SOLIFUGAE (Sunspiders)

2,253 accessions representing:
5 families, 15 genera &  30 species

Photographer: P.Webb

Spider Type Specimen Collection

Natural history collection staff are not only responsible for the curation, preservation and management of specimens in their care but also have to look after the type specimen collection. According to recommendation 72F, article 72 of the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature, there are some obligations for the institution in which type specimens are deposited, namely to:

  • ensure that all (type specimens) are clearly marked so that they will be unmistakably recognized as name-bearing types;

  • take all necessary steps for their safe preservation;

  • make them accessible for study;

  • publish lists of name-bearing types in their possession or custody and;

  • so far as possible, communicate information concerning name-bearing types when requested.

​The aim of this catalogue is to make an electronic version of the spider type specimens deposited in the NCA available to the research community. The catalogue includes all the spider types, preserved in 70% alcohol and deposited in the NCA (Figs 1 & 2). Each entry lists the current name of the spider species, followed by the authority, date and page number of the original description.

Additional information relates the category of the type specimen, number of specimens, locality with GPS co-ordinates, province and country, and NCA accession number. The electronic version of this catalogue is available on the ARC web-site and will be updated annually. Currently the NCA data- base contains > 60 000 accessions, representing about 180 000 specimens. The specimens housed at the NCA are fully digitized (including collecting data and images) and all the data is organized in a MySQL relational database.

Data is standardized according to the Darwin Core for sharing information on biodiversity. These records contain all the taxonomic information as well as the biological and biogeographically information for each specimen.

The spider type collection in the NCA currently contains 1 548 type specimens of 205 species from 33 families and 97 genera, of which 139 specimens are primary types.

MARAIS, P., DIPPENAAR-SCHOEMAN, A.S., LYLE, R., ANDERSON, C. & MATHEBULA, S. 2013. Catalogue of the spider type specimens deposited in the National Collection of Arachnida of the Agricultural Research Council, Pretoria (Arthropoda: Arachnida: Araneae). ARC-Plant Protection Research Institute, Technical Communication version 1: 1-25 [pdf]

Collection manager: Petro Marais

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