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New tarantula species the size of an iPad discovered in Sri Lanka

08/04/2013 16:06:16

Newly discovered tarantula in Sri Lanka - Photo courtesy of Ranil Nanayakkara/British Tarantula Society

New spiders grow up to 8 inches across
April 2013. A large new species of tarantula has been discovered in Sri Lanka. At 8 inches across, the new tarantula isn't as large as the Goliath bird eating tarantula of South America, which can grow up to 12 inches, Poecilotheria rajaei (As the new spider has been named) would still be as long as an ipad screen. It is also quite fast for a spider, and venomous.

The tarantula was discovered back in 2009 when a villager in Mankulam, up in the northern part of Sri Lanka, provided Ranil Nanayakkara (Co-founder of the Biodiversity Education And Research (BEAR) organisation) with a dead male specimen. Further live specimens were then found in the village's former doctor's living quarters. It was quickly established that it was different to any species known from Sri Lanka at that time.

This group of tarantulas are commonly referred to variously as the Indian and Sri Lankan Ornamental Tarantulas, Parachute Spiders, Tiger Spiders, etc. but the scientific name is Poecilotheria rajaei (named after Inspector Michael Rajakumar Purajah - who was instrumental in allowing Ranil and his team access to the areas they needed to get to). It is an arboreal tarantula, so in its natural habitat it prefers to live in holes in trees or similar such crevices.

It belongs to a group of brightly coloured tarantulas from India and Sri Lanka which we can differentiate from one another by the pattern of black bands on the underside of their legs and, in this particular species and one other, a pale, ventral abdominal band.

Adapted to living in houses!
It is the first of what we believe are several new species of tarantula that have been located in this previously inaccessible region of Sri Lanka. Although this species is scarce as a consequence of its natural habitat having been destroyed, it has been able to adapt and has started to encroach on the ‘artificial trees' that human habitation provides.

Our thanks to The British Tarantula Society & Ranil Nanayakkara

A male Poecilotheria rajaei


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