Blue is one of the rarest colors found in nature – along with the fact there are no green mammals, of course. Now a new species of tarantula has been discovered in Thailand with a blue-violet hue that researchers say resembles the color of electrical sparks.
In Phang-Nga province in Thailand, researchers collected a new species of tarantula that now belongs to the genus Chilobrachys, bringing the total for the genus up to 32 species. By measuring and dissecting the specimen, the team compared the new species to other known related species.
The study shows that the tarantula has violet and metallic blue hairs on its legs, chelicerae (the fang-like mouthparts), and top of its carapace. They suggest that while blue coloration is rare, tending to be a product of photonic nanostructures rather than an expression of pigment, it has still independently evolved eight times in tarantula species. Recently, another new species of tarantula was discovered in Iran with locks of golden hair.
To choose the new name for this striking species, an auction campaign was carried out to raise money for the education of Lahu children in Thailand. The Lahu people are an Indigenous hill tribe, and many of the children are denied access to education due to poverty. The aim was to raise money by auctioning off the chance to name the new species and use the money generated to give the children better access to education, working to change the cycle of poverty. The proceeds from the auction were also used to raise money for cancer patients.
The name of the new species is Chilobrachys natanicharum sp. nov., which is a combination of the names of Mr Natakorn Changrew and Ms Nichada Changrew, who were the winners of the auction.
The study revealed that the new tarantula is found in mangrove forests where it lives inside hollows in trees. The researchers also suggest that this species can live in burrows on land. They live at a range of elevations, from sea level up to 57 meters (187 feet).
The team highlights that the destruction of the habitat where this species and other tarantula species live, coupled with the hunting of these species, has devastated the populations across Thailand. They suggest that there needs to be conservation of habitats and species, as well as stronger monitoring practices to prevent further declines.
The study is published in ZooKeys.