Katherine Montana

San Francisco State University

“Dazzling, diverse Dictynidae: A molecular phylogeny of a tailor’s drawer spider family, in progress”

Katherine’s research focuses on expanding and refining the structure of the spider tree of life, specifically for the family Dictynidae. Next-generation sequencing standards provide previously unknown insights into relationships between genera within this taxonomically unorganized family of little, brown spiders.


Dictynidae (O. Pickard-Cambridge, 1871) is a cosmopolitan spider family composed mostly of small, brown spiders. Dictynidae has been labeled a “tailor’s drawer” family because it contains taxonomically unorganized and often evolutionarily distant species. With adaptations that allow dictynids to thrive in habitats ranging from the frozen Arctic to one of the hottest places on Earth, and from hypersaline alkali sinks to freshwater ecosystems, there is remarkable diversity found in the family. However without the context of a phylogeny, we cannot begin to study the extreme adaptations found in this group. The genera comprising the family, and the relationships among those genera, have never been rigorously tested using modern phylogenetic methods or genomic-scale data. Using exemplar dictynid species from most currently recognized dictynid genera, and ultraconserved elements (UCEs) recovered in silico from low coverage whole-genome sequencing, we have resolved the phylogenetic placement and relationships of genera within the family Dictynidae. This study begins to remedy the dearth of systematic knowledge about this incredibly diverse spider group and fills knowledge gaps in the tree of life for little brown spiders.

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