October 31st, 2012 by James Ayre
Nine new species of endangered arboreal tarantulas have just been discovered in Central and Eastern Brazil, including four of the smallest arboreal species ever seen, a species that lives in bromeliads, and four new species in a “resurrected” and likely very old genus.
Arboreal tarantulas are known to live in only a few tropical places throughout South and Central America, Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean. They typically possess a lighter, thinner body than other tarantulas, making them more agile. And they have longer legs with an increased surface area at the ends, allowing for easier climbing, and climbing on more varied surfaces.
They are most common in the Amazon, and that’s where the majority of known species live and are common. Some of the species are, currently, very common throughout the jungle, and even in people’s houses.
The new species were discovered during a study being done by Dr Rogério Bertani, a tarantula specialist and a researcher based at the Instituto Butantan in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
“Instead of the seven species formerly known in the region, we now have sixteen,” said Dr Bertani. “In a resurrected genus with a mysterious single species known from 1841, we have now five species.” “These are the smallest arboreal tarantulas in the world, and their analysis suggests the genus to be very old, so they can be considered relicts of a formerly more widely distributed taxon.”
One of the primary discoveries was finding a new species of tarantulas that lives inside of bromeliads. “Only a single species had been known to live exclusively inside these plants, and now we have another that specialized in bromeliads as well.” Another was finding a species that lives at the top of table mountains, where very few trees live. “This species also inhabits bromeliads, one of the few places for an arboreal tarantula to live that offer water and a retreat against the intense sunlight,” he says.
Finding so many new species outside of the Amazon was unexpected for the researchers, making it clear how little is scientifically known about the fauna in the world, “even from hot spots of threatened biodiversity like the Brazilian Atlantic Rainforest and the Cerrado (a kind of savannah vegetation). These species are highly endemic and the regions where they live are suffering high pressure from human activities. Therefore, studies for their conservation are necessaries. Furthermore, all these new species are colorful, which could attract the interest for capturing them for the pet trade, constituting another threat.”
The research has been published in the open access journal ZooKeys.
Source: Pensoft Publishers
Image Credits: Dr. Rogerio Bertani;CC-BY 3.0; http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/
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