October 31, 2012
Researchers Discover Nine New Species Of Arboreal Tarantulas In Brazil
April Flowers for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
A few tropical habitats in Asia, Africa, South and Central America, and the Caribbean are known for being home to arboreal tarantulas, which are generally lighter in build, have thinner bodies and longer legs. This allows them to better climb different surfaces and makes them more agile than land based spiders.
The core area for arboreal tarantulas is in the Amazon where most of the species are known and relatively common, living in the jungle or even in housing environments. A new paper, published in ZooKeys, describes nine new species from Central and Eastern Brazil, including four of the smallest arboreal species ever found.
Dr. Rogerio Bertani, tarantula specialist and researcher at the Instituto Butantan, discovered the species.
"Instead of the seven species formerly known in the region, we now have sixteen", said Dr Bertani. "In a resurrected genus with a mysterious single species known from 1841, we have now five species. These are the smallest arboreal tarantulas in the world, and their analysis suggests the genus to be very old, so they can be considered relicts of a formerly more widely distributed taxon."
The new discovery includes two species that live in bromeliad plants, one of which lives at the top of table mountains where trees are rare.
"Only a single species had been known to live exclusively inside these plants, and now we have another that specialized in bromeliads as well. This species also inhabits bromeliads, one of the few places for an arboreal tarantula to live that offer water and a retreat against the intense sunlight," Bertani says.
This unexpected discovery outside of the Amazon illustrates how little we know of the fauna surrounding us, even in places like the Brazilian Atlantic Rainforest and the Cerrado, which are hot spots of threatened biodiversity. The new species are highly endemic. The regions where they are found are under a great deal of pressure from human activity, making conservation studies necessary. This is especially true since all nine new species are brightly colored, which could attract interest in capturing them for the pet trade, which would constitute another threat.