Hats off to science, which potentially just introduced a new giant species of spider to the world.
In a recent story for Wired.com, author Nadia Drake profiled the newly discovered Poecilotheria rajaei, a Sri Lankan tarantula that’s everything that something that looks like it shouldn’t be: huge (its leg span reaches up to 8 inches, or the size of an average human face), highly decorated and bright, and venomous. The spider–whose genus, Poecilotheria, is closely related to the gargantuan Goliath-bird eater spiders of South America–was first discovered by Ranil Nanayakkara in 2009 when a Sri Lankan villager presented him with the corpse of a Poecilotheria rajaei.
Nanayakkara, after determining that the corpse didn’t match any other known Poecilotheria, then conducted a survey of the spider in northern Sri Lanka. Nanayakkara, with the help of police inspector Michael Rajakumar Purajah, navigated the forests of Sri Lanka’s civil war-ravaged north, finding enough of the arboreal species in trees and old hospitals to claim it as a new species.
As Wired.com notes, arachnologist Robert Raven of the Queensland Museum in Australia won’t believe it’s a new species until DNA sampling differentiates it from other similar species, but one thing’s for damn certain: these
insects things are terrifying. Like, babies-from-Alien frightening.
But seriously, though: awesome job, science. Many thanks for reminding tourists to decline any treehouse invitations when visiting Sri Lanka. They appreciate the heads up.
Update: The article erroneously referred to the tarantula as an insect when in fact it’s an arachnid. Insects have six legs, antennae and wings; arachnids have eight legs and no antennae and wings.