New tarantula with massive ’horn’ discovered

The function of Ceratogyrus attonitifer's 'horn' is remains a mystery. Image: John M Midgley and Ian Engebre/African Invertebrates

To the everyday person, tarantulas are scary enough with their large legs, big eyes, fangs and furriness.

Well, now they're even scarier. A new species of tarantula has been discovered with a large horn-like protuberance on its back.

The tarantulas were found in Angola, Africa, by scientists working on The National Geographic Okavango Wilderness Project.

The bizarre new species was named Ceratogyrus attonitifer - with the latter word meaning astonishment or fascination.

The name "refers to the astonishment felt by the authors at the discovery of this remarkable species", the findings in an African Invertebrates journal article stated.

In the journal article, scientists John M Midgley and Ian Engelbrecht wrote that the new species of Ceratogyrus was "remarkable".

"No other spider in the world possesses a similar foveal protuberance."

The protuberance of C attonitifer was soft and unique in its length, but the purpose of it remained a mystery.

"The function of the foveal protuberance, or 'horn', in Ceratogyrus is uncertain," they wrote.

The new tarantulas appear golden brown in colour with a golden-speckled abdomen.

Although their appearance could be frightening for some, there is some good news; its venom is not considered to be dangerous.

Bites may result in infections which can be fatal due to poor medical access, however, the scientists wrote.

They are known as "Chandachuly" in the local Luchazi language. They live in open burrows in sandy soil near woodland, and it was reported that they prey mainly on insects.

However there's still much to learn about these tarantulas.

The scientists wrote that central and eastern Angola was severely under-sampled for theraphosid spiders, with every species collected during the survey either being potentially new to science or representing a significant range extension for the genus.

"Biodiversity exploration in Angola still offers many potential new scientific discoveries, particularly in the eastern provinces."

-Stuff.co.nz/Georgia Forrester




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