Sitting in a museum is not where you would probably imagine discovering eight new species, rather you might imagine intrepid biologists and researchers trekking through the jungles and up mountains all in search of new life much like an 18th Century explorer. However biologists working on a journal for PLoSONE have found eight new species of whip spiders amongst zoological collections.
Whip Spiders are often likened to tailless scorpions, when in fact they are neither scorpion nor spider. You might actually be familiar with them as they guest starred in Harry Potter, as the character Mad Eye Moody demonstrated various curses on them, however for anyone who is not a Potter fan they belong to a group of arachnids called Amblypygi, meaning blunt rump.
They also bare considerably differences to spiders as they only use six legs to walk on rather than the traditional eight. Their eighth pair of legs is instead used as a sensory probe. They also do not have venomous fangs or silk glands.
It is always exciting to find new species of such a unique animal however this discovery comes with a note of caution. The majority of the new species have only been recorded at a handful of sites thus their restricted distribution makes them highly vulnerable to external pressures.
Four of the new species are located in areas of high human exploitation or environmental modification. To give you an example of how imminent extinction could be for some of these species, C. bichuetteae is only found in an area threatened by imminent flooding expected to be caused by the hydroelectric dam of Belo Monte, located on the Xingu River in the Brazilian Amazon.
Gustavo Silva de Miranda of the University of Copenhagen, told the Christian Science Monitor, “Because these are cave animals, they only inhabit these caves and nowhere else. If we destroy their habitats, they are gone forever.” There are now calls for them to be added to the list of threatened species.
Featured Image courtesy of Alessandro Ponce de Leão Giupponi and Gustavo Silva de Miranda, 2016.
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