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Scientists Discover 50 New Spider Species, Including a Giant Tarantula the Size of a Human Face

Apr 14, 2017 11:52 AM EDT
A man holds a Mexican Red-Legged tarantula.
(Photo : Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The Australian wilderness just got a bit more terrifying as scientists on a two-week expedition came back with identifications on 50 new spider species crawling around in the wild.

According to a report from Australian Geographic, the dozens of newly-identified species were discovered on the Cape York Peninsula in northern Queensland, Australia. Even by the standards of Queensland Museum's Dr Robert Raven -- who was part of the expedition and has previously identified 13 new spider species in one go -- this most recent find of 50 species is nothing less than mind-blowing.

"Under one rock, down in a gully with a fresh-water spring pumping through, I found species from six arachnid orders," Raven said. "It was absolutely spectacular to see all these six groups together."

It's not just the sheer number of the find that made it such a unique discovery, but the variety of the species the team was able to uncover. There were tiny spiders that mimicked ants and were the size of a fingernail, while tarantulas as big as a human face also scurried around. Raven learned that not only can tarantulas swim, they can also dive and stay underwater for extended periods of time.

One of the most notable new discoveries is a peacock spider that indulged in a strange courtship behavior that looks remarkably like dancing, according to a report from The Guardian. Another is a new species of jumping spiders, which also displayed the tendency to dance.

"Jumping spiders have a nice courtship behaviour: they dance for their women," Dr Barbara Baehr said. "I once described one after Mao's Last Dancer because I had seen the ballet and it danced like that. There is a lovely side to spiders, there's not just a terrible, dangerous side."

Baehr explained that the ecological richness of the region and the wet season created a thriving habitat that allowed scientists to discover so many new species of spiders.

The expedition was part of a Bush Blitz project. An official report revealed that 23 scientists worked with indigenous rangers and traditional owners for the two-week-long trip.

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