New species are found surprisingly often, and creatures with eight legs seem to be having a bit of a bumper year. In Ecuador two new species of tarantulas have been found – but they don’t seem to be very pleased, and have been given names to reflect their sassy personalities and the conservation issues they are facing.
The first species was found in the west of Ecuador, in the Andes mountain range in the forest of Cordillera Occidental. The species has been named Psalmopoeus chronoarachne, from the Greek words meaning "time" and "spider." Unfortunately, the name carries with it a sense of urgency as the team behind the discovery believe that the species is seriously threatened by mining and agricultural practices in its habitat.
"The compound word refers to the adage that these spiders could 'have their time counted' or reduced by impactful anthropogenic activities. The name addresses conservation concerns about the survival and prevalence of spider species in natural environments," the researchers write in their recently published paper.
The second species was found on a bamboo fence in San José de Alluriquín by researcher Roberto J. León-E. The name for this species is Psalmopoeus satanas, with the latter half in reference to the tarantula’s somewhat sassy personality.
"The members of the Mygalomorphae Research Group in the Laboratory of Terrestrial Zoology at Universidad San Francisco de Quito grew very fond of this individual during its care, in spite of the individual's bad temperament and sporadic attacks (reason for the nickname)," write the authors.
This species also faces similar threats to the first, with the problems of habitat loss to urbanization and agricultural use.
"It is essential to consider the potential loss of both P. chronoarachne and P. satanas and the ecological consequences that would result from their extinctions. These species [...] may serve essential roles in the stratified micro-ecosystems in their respective areas," the researchers write in their paper.
The two species have been classified as new based on the morphology, or appearance, of specialized organs for reproduction called spermathecae and, in males, palpal bulbs. The new species were also found in distinct geographical areas compared to other known tarantula species.
Little is known about the population densities of either species. As well as the threats due to habitat loss, the team is also concerned about the problem of the illegal pet trade, which has persisted for more than 30 years in Ecuador where wild specimens are caught and sold without proper regulation.
"During the writing of this article and the publication of another article, we found that a species that we described (Neischnocolus cisnerosi) is currently in the illegal pet trade," said Pedro Peñaherrera-R, the lead author, in a statement.
The team highlights the need for organizations and governments to protect both the habitats of these creatures and those that face population decline by illegal smuggling.
The study is published in ZooKeys.