Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Giant Spider Discovered

A new, giant tarantula has been discovered in a remote area of Northern Sri Lanka. With a leg span of eight inches the spider is large enough to cover an average human face.

The ornately marked spider is part of the family of ‘tiger spiders’ indigenous to India and Sri Lanka. Tiger spiders are known for their colorful markings and speed. They are venomous spiders related to a class of South American tarantulas that includes the Goliath bird eater, the world’s largest known spider. Tiger spiders live on birds, snakes and rodents, catching them with their shear speed and of course, the use of venom.

P-RajaeiTiger spiders are usually found in tree hollows and among rocks. In forest areas, during monsoon season, they often move into human dwellings.

During the recent expedition, the spiders were found in trees and in the old doctor’s quarters of a hospital in Mankulam. Scientist Ranil Nanayakkara, part of the research team that found the tarantula, reports:

“Days of extensive searching in every tree hole and bark peel were rewarded with a female and, to our, satisfaction several juveniles too.”

The spider was actually first noticed in 2009 during a survey of Sri Lankan arachnids. Some villagers killed one of the spiders and brought it to the research group. Ranil Nanayakkara studied the dead male spider carefully and determined that it had significant differences from similar tarantulas, enough to establish it as a new species.
With the help of locals, the research team found enough spiders to gather a detailed description of the species

 The new tarantula has been dubbed “Poecilotheria rajaei” after a local police inspector who helped scientist locate the spider. The primary differences noted on this tarantula are leg markings that include yellow and gray inlays and geometric patterns. The creature also has a pink abdominal band.
The spider is in the class “Poecilotheria”, of which about fifteen species have been identified. Several of them are endangered mostly because of loss of habitat and a couple are even listed as critically endangered.

“They are quite rare. They prefer well established old trees but due to deforestation the number has dwindled and due to lack of suitable habitat they enter old buildings.” Nanayakkara reports.

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