New spider discovered

2019-03-06 06:02

LOCAL entomologist Dr John Midgley has discovered a new species of tarantula which he has named Ceratogyrus Attonitifer, meaning “Bearer of astonishment.” The species was first discovered in 2016 while the assistant director for natural science at the KwaZulu-Natal Museum was doing invertebrate biodiversity surveys for the National Geographic Okavango Wilderness Project in Eastern Angola.

“The spider has a distinctly unique horn that is completely different to the other spiders in the Ceratogyrus group. I discovered these spiders by observing burrows during the day and then at night came back to dig out the spiders. I immediately knew I had discovered a new species and found more specimens and finally confirmed this as such,” said Midgley, who added that he was astonished by the spectacular horn on the back of the spider, which he said is four times the size of any horn found on the Ceratogyrus spiders.

Speaking on why the discovery has only gone public now, Midgley said that he knew the species was a new discovery on the first day but, because of delays in the research process, it had taken two years for him and his co-author, Dr Ian Engelbrecht, to finally publish their findings in the African Invertebrate journal.

While Midgley confirmed that he and Dr Engelbrecht are studying the structure of the spider’s horn, there still is currently no active field research on the species.

“We are trying to find out the exact purpose of the horn and in the interim national parks are being established in the region to conserve the spider. The spiders’ venom has also not been tested but Angolan locals have attested to the venom not being poisonous,” he said.

Midgley said that while the spider was a new find for science, the locals, however, are familiar with the spider.

“The people there are accustomed to the spider. We have kept the location a secret, however, to discourage illegal smugglers and hope that anyone who does see it keeps it a secret as well,” said Midgley.

Proud to have contributed to biodiversity knowledge through his discovery, Midgley hopes that his find will get more people involved in arachnology.

Information and pictures on the spider will soon be included in the new galleries at the museum in the future.

“I immediately knew I discovered a new species and found more specimen and finally confirmed this as such,” said Midgley.

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