A species of new tarantula for science with a protuberance similar to a horn protruding from its back was recently identified in Angola, a largely unexplored country, located at the intersection of several afrotropic ecoregions.
The new arachnid is described in an article published in the National Geographic Okavango Wilderness Project, which aims to discover the biodiversity that has not been sampled throughout the Okavango basin in Angola, Namibia and Botswana, paving the way for sustainable conservation in area. in the open access journal African invertebrates by the team of doctors John Midgley and Ian Engelbrecht.
Although the new spider (Ceratogyrus attonitifer sp.n.) belongs to a group known as horned baboon spiders, the peculiar protuberance is not present in all these species. In addition, in the other species, where it is, the structure is completely sclerotized, while the Angolan specimens show a soft and characteristically longer "horn". The function of the curious structure remains unknown.
The extraordinary morphology of the tarantula also boosted the name of its species: C. attonitifer, which is derived from the Latin root attonit- ("astonishment" or "fascination"), and the suffix -fer ("bearer of" or "bearer"). It refers to the amazement of the authors before the discovery of the remarkable species.
"No other spider in the world has a similar foveal protuberance," the authors of the article comment.
During a series of surveys between 2015 and 2016, researchers collected several female specimens from the miombo forests in central Angola. To find them, the team usually spent the day locating burrows, often hidden among tufts of grass, but sometimes they find themselves in the open sand, and they dig specimens during the night. Interestingly, each time the researchers placed an object in the burrow, the spiders were quick and eager to attack it.
The indigenous peoples of the region provided additional information on the biology and lifestyle of the baboon spider. Although it has not been described and unknown by experts until very recently, the arachnid is called "chandachuly" among local tribes. Thanks to their reports, you can also take into account information about the behavior of the animal. The tarantula tends to attack insects and you can see the females enlarging existing burrows instead of digging yours. In addition, it is said that the poison of the species just described is not dangerous for humans, although there have been some deaths caused by infected bites that were not treated due to poor medical access.
In conclusion, the researchers point out that the discovery of Angola's novel baboon spider not only substantially extends the known distributive range of the genus, but can also serve as additional evidence of the country's immense endemic fauna:
"The general lack of biodiversity data for Angola is clearly illustrated in this example with the spider therapists, highlighting the importance of collecting specimens at the biodiversity frontiers."
In addition to the species described, the study produced specimens of two other potentially new species for science and range expansions for other genera. However, the available material is so far insufficient to formally diagnose and describe them.
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