Hide the kids! A giant, hairy new spider has been discovered in northern Sri Lanka that is sure to evoke nightmares in even the mildest of arachnophobes. The new spider — which has a leg span wider than the average human skull — belongs to the genus Poecilotheria, a group of arboreal tiger spiders known for their super-swift speed and a venomous bite.
As a group, the spiders are related to a class of South American tarantulas that includes the world’s largest spider, the Goliath bird-eater. (The spider is known for its fondness of bats and hummingbirds, and surely responsible for more terror than all other eight-legged crawling creatures combined.)
The new spider, Poecilotheria rajaei, was named in honor of the local police inspector, Michael Rajakumar Purajah, who escorted the scientists through areas still recovering from civil war. It was first seen as a dead specimen presented to Ranil Nanayakkara, co-founder of Sri Lanka’s Biodiversity Education and Research, by a local villager in 2009. Nanayakkara and his team then set out to find others to authenticate the new find.
P. rajaei differs from similar species mostly in its geometric patterns, with bright yellow and grey markings on its legs and underside, as well as a pink abdominal band.
To find the spider, the arachnid researchers combed over semi-evergreen, forested areas and eventually found more spiders in trees and even in the old doctor’s quarters of a hospital.
“They are quite rare,” Nanayakkara said. “They prefer well-established old trees, but due to deforestation, the number have dwindled and due to lack of suitable habitat, they enter old buildings.”
The new spider was described in the British Tarantula Society Journal.
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