19 March 2019

New, Clone-Like Spiders Found in Colombia

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Researchers have named four of six bald-legged spiders recently discovered in Colombia Stormtropis, after the Star Wars Stormtroopers soldiers, for their identical appearance and ability to camouflage. reports citing Geek that, despite being widely distributed across north and central South America, bald-legged spiders had never been confirmed in Colombia until a recent study led by Carlos Perafan, Fernando Perez-Miles (Universidad de la Republica, Uruguay), and William Galvis (Universidad Nacional de Colombia) and published in the open-access journal ZooKeys.

The four spiders were unable to fit into any already existing genus, so the scientists had to create a brand new one for them.

“The stormtroopers are the soldiers of the main ground force of the Galactic Empire. These soldiers are very similar to each other, with some capacity for camouflage, but with unskillful movements, like this new group of spiders,” the researchers said. “We wanted to make a play on words with the name of the known genus, Paratropis, and of course, we also wanted to pay tribute to one of the greatest sagas of all time.”

Bald-legged spiders (family Paratropididae) possess the striking ability to adhere soil particles to their cuticle, which allows them to be camouflaged by the environment.

One of the new ‘stormtrooper’ species (Stormtropis muisca) also has the highest altitudinal record for the family. It was recorded from an elevation of at more than 11,000 feet in the central Andes.

In studying the new spider species, the researchers also confirmed previous assumptions that the bald-legged spiders are well-adapted to running across the ground’s surface. The spiders were seen to stick soil particles to their scaly backs as a means of camouflage against predators.

The team also recorded several cases of various bald-legged species burrowing into ravine walls or soil — a type of behavior that had never been reported before. The researchers believe this might possibly be a secondary adaptation, so that the spiders could exploit additional habitats.

2019.03.16 / 20:59
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