Four new spider species can be found skittering across the scorching sand dunes of South Africa and Namibia.
The arachnids belong to the family of huntsman spiders (Sparassidae), two species of which have recently captured the public imagination: The “Dancing White Lady” that taps its front legs on the sand to communicate with other spiders, and the “Moroccan flic-flac” spider that cartwheels down sand dunes to escape predators.
Now, researchers from the Senckenberg Research Institute in Frankfurt have identified a new genus of huntsman spider with four associated species: Three from Namibia (May ansie, M. rudy, and M. norm) and one from South Africa (M. bruno). The findings have been published in African Invertebrates.
The spiders have little hairs called setae near the tips of their spindly legs that likely prevent them from sinking into the sand. But what truly sets these spiders apart are the “love bites” on the back of females.
"It is quite possible that these injuries were sustained during mating," said Dr Peter Jäger, an arachnologist from the Senckenberg Research Institute in Frankfurt, in a statement. “We were unable to find these marks on the males of the 'Love Bite Spider'."
For now, though, that remains complete speculation, as the scientists have yet to observe the courtship in the field. These eight-legged beauties have eluded the eye of scientists due to their nocturnal, desert-dwelling, tunnel-digging habits. To discover a tiny arachnid in the desert dunes at night in self-made tunnels that camouflage the creature’s beige body takes a bit of effort, to say the least.
However, should such mating habits transpire, the species would join only six other spider species (out of 45,000) worldwide that do the same.
Check out more of these huntsman lovelies below.
Image: (46) South Africa habitat for the May Bruno spider, (47) The desert spiders' burrow in the sand. Credit: Jon Leroy.
Image Credit: Senckenberg/Kunz
Image: The tufts of setae for the May rudy spider. Credit: Jäger
Image: Dark claw tufts of setae for the May bruno spider. Credit: Peter Jäger