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Whip Spiders: Eight New Species Found In Amazon Rainforest

Feb 22, 2016 07:30 AM EST

Researchers from the University of Copenhagen have discovered eight new whip spider species in the Brazilian Amazon, which nearly doubles the number known to inhabit the region. 

Sometimes referred to as "tailless whip scorpions," these arachnids are neither scorpions nor spiders, but resemble a cross between the two. While they lack venomous fangs and don't produce silk, the creatures get their name from their long, spiny, whip-like front legs, which are actually used as sensory structures to make up for their poor vision, rather than for walking. 

Researchers Alessandro Ponce de Leão Giupponi and Gustavo Silva de Miranda identified the new arachnids while assessing museum collections, according to a news release

Whip spiders are found all over the world, but the new species all live in caves or hide under bark, rocks or leaf litter in the Amazon. They look a lot like whip scorpions, but they don't have the distinctive tail of that arachnid -- which is why they belong to the order Amblypigi, meaning "blunt rump." It is believed that many more are left to be found in the rainforest. 

However, human activities such as iron mining and flooding from the Belo Monte dam threaten four of the eight species living in the region. 

"It's good to discover these things before they actually disappear," de Miranda told The Christian Science Monitor. "Because these cave animals, they only inhabit these caves and nowhere else. If we destroy their habitats, they are gone forever." 

Despite their creepy appearance, the loss of whip spiders could greatly disrupt the local food chain.

The new species are differentiated by a variety of physical characteristics. The eight individuals are from the genus Charinus and have been named: C. bichuetteaeC. bonaldoi,C. carajas, C. ferreusC. gutoC. orientalisC. brescoviti, and C. ricardoi. Brazil now has the largest diversity of whip spiders in the world, with a total of 25 known species. 

Their findings were recently published in the journal PLOS ONE.

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