Eight new species of whip spider that are native to the Brazilian Amazon were recently identified by scientists, a new paper suggests.
During the evaluation of museum collections, a team of scientists has found eight new arachnid species. The spiders were described in a paper published Wednesday (Feb. 17) in the journal PLOS ONE.
Amblypygi, also known as whip spiders and tailless whip scorpions, got their ‘whip’ name from their whip-like front legs. Gustavo Silva de Miranda, an entomologist at the Center for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate, Natural History Museum of Denmark (Zoological Museum), University of Copenhagen, said that the animals do not use their front legs to walk, but in fact use them as their primary sensory structure.
Even though the species is part of an order known as whip spiders, they are not actual spiders. These are arachnids – a class of joint-legged invertebrate animals – that possess no silk glands or venomous fangs; they are harmless to humans.
They are sometimes also called tailless whip scorpions, but they are not scorpions either. Although Amblypygi look similar to whip scorpions (which belong to the order Thelyphonida), their tail is different from the whip-like tail of whip scorpions, according to the scientists.
Amblypygids can range from about two to twenty-three inches (approximately five to sixty centimetres) in size, depending on their leg span. Their bodies are highly flattened, with a segmented abdomen and a solid carapace. These arachnids have medium to poor eyesight, which is why their use their pedipalps as sensors. Although they can be found all over the world, the newly identified species live in the Amazon in Brazil, de Miranda said.
Four of the eight whip spider species are already facing serious threats, due to human activity in that region, scientists explained. Some of the dangers include: flooding because of a new dam, iron mining, and so on.
Some of the spiders only live in certain types of caves, which means that if people destroyed their one and only habitat, the spiders would vanish forever, according to de Miranda. It is a good thing that they were discovered before they actually disappeared, the scientists said.
The eight species of whip spiders are all part of the Charinidae family. Arachnids play a key role in the ecosystem, even though many people do not like them. Losing them might disrupt the food chain (among other things), de Miranda said.
Alessandro Ponce de Leão Giupponi, a researcher at the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation – a scientific institution for development and research in biomedical sciences – and his colleague de Miranda, found that new species while assessing the collections at the National Museum of Rio de Janeiro. The whip spider collections came from the Museu Paraense Emílio Goeldi, the National Museum of Rio de Janeiro, the Butantan Institute, and the Museum of Zoology of the University of São Paulo, de Leão Giupponi and de Miranda said.
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