<img src = "http://media.eurekalert.org/multimedia_prod/pub/web/192675_web.jpg" alt = "IMAGE: This is an individual of the recently described species ( Ceratogyrus attonitis
) in defensive posture (typically typical of baboon spiders) in its natural habitat.
Credit: Kostadine Luchansky
A new scientific species of tarantula with a strange horn-like protrusion protruding from its back was recently identified from Angola, a vast under-explored land located at the junction of several Afrotropic ecoregions.
Collected as part of the National Geographic Okavango Wilderness Project, which aims to reveal the undersampled biodiversity throughout the Okavango runoff in Angola, Namibia and Botswana, thereby paving the way for sustainable conservation in the area, the new arachnid is described in a paper published in open access journal African invertebrates by the team John Midgley and Ian Engelbrecht. Although the new spider ( Ceratogyrus attonitifer sp.] ) belongs to a group known as horned baboon spiders, the particular propagation is not present in all of these species. In addition, the structure is completely sclerotized in the other species, while the Angolan samples show a soft and characteristic longer "horn". The curious structure's function is still unknown.
The extraordinary morphology of the new tarantula has also led to its species name: C. attonitifer derived from Latin rotten attonite ("surprise" or "fascination") and suffix -fer ("bearer of" or "carrier"). It refers to the authors' astonishment at the discovery of the remarkable species.
"No other spider in the world has a similar foveal protuberance," comments the authors of the magazine.
During a series of surveys between 201
5 and 2016, the researchers gathered several female specimens from the miombo forests in central Angola. To find them, the team would normally spend the day locating the burrows, often hidden among the grass, but sometimes there are in open sand and digging specimens during the night. Interestingly, when the researchers placed an object in the cage, the spiders were quick and eager to attack it.
The indigenous people of the region provided additional information on the baby's spider's biology and lifestyle. While unwritten and unknown to the experts until very recently, the arachnid has long been named "chandachuly" among the local tribes. Thanks to their reports, information on animal behavior can also be noted. Tarantula tend to call insects and the fees can be seen magnifying already existing burgers instead of digging their own. Even the newly described species' poison is not said to be dangerous to humans, although there have been some deaths caused by infected bites that have not been treated due to poor medical access.
In summary, the researchers note that the discovery of the new baboons spider from Angola not only extends substantially within the sexes' known distribution area, but can also serve as additional evidence of its vastly unreported endemic fauna:  "The general lack of biodiversity data for Angola is clearly illustrated by this example of teraphoside spiders, and emphasizes the importance of collecting samples at the borders of biodiversity ".
Apart from the species described, the study produced samples of two other potentially new species of science and propagation for other relatives. However, the available material is insufficient so far to formally diagnose and describe them.
Midgley JM, Engelbrecht I (2019) New collection records for Theraphosidae (Araneae, Mygalomorphae) in Angola, describing a strange new species of Ceratogyrus . African Invertebrates 60 (1): 1-13. https: / / doi org / 10 3897 / afrinvertebr 60. 32.141
About Baboon Spider Atlas:
Co-author Ian Engelbrecht runs a civic science project called Baboon Spider Atlas which aims to discover and describe the diversity of baboon spiders in south africa, which remain largely fearless and unknown. By bringing together experts and beginners, the project should lead to better appreciation for these fantastic creatures and further steps towards their preservation.
To achieve this goal, the project's focus is to mount photographic records of baboon spiders in the wild alongside where and when they have seen, and deposit them in an online database. The project is being carried out in collaboration with the Animal Demography Unit at the University of Cape Town and using its virtual museum to store data during the SpiderMap project. ADU has a long and successful history of running atlas projects, such as birds, reptiles, frogs and butterflies.