A “hypnotizing” bright blue tarantula species has been discovered in Thailand.
Thai researchers found the spider in a mangrove forest during an expedition to southern Phang-Nga province to study the diversity and distribution of tarantulas.
“(We have) found a new species of tarantula that has a fascinating blue-purple hue reminiscent of electric blue sparks,” Narin Chomphuphuang, a researcher in the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology at Khon Kaen University, told CNN this week.
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The study detailing the discovery was published September 18 in the research journal ZooKeys.
The discovery team also included Thai wildlife YouTuber JoCho Sippawat, who is also the author of the article.
Some members of the same team last year also discovered a previously unknown species of tarantula – now called Taksinus bambus – living in the hollowed stems of bamboo plants in Thailand.
The team auctioned off the right to name the new species to publicize the find and raise awareness and donations for the indigenous Lahu people of northern Thailand – a group that includes Sippawat.
Chilobrachys natanicharum is derived from the names of two executives of the company that won the naming campaign.
“Blue is one of the rarest colors found in nature, which makes blue coloring in animals particularly fascinating,” said Chomphuphuang.
The researchers said this coloration comes from the arrangement of “biological photonic nanostructures rather than pigments.”
This means that the electric blue coloration is not due to the presence of blue pigmentation, but rather due to “the unique structure of their hair, which contains nanostructures that manipulate light to create this striking blue appearance,” Chomphuphuang explained.
The lack of blue in nature can be attributed to difficulties in absorbing and reflecting certain wavelengths of light.
“To appear blue, an object must absorb very small amounts of energy while simultaneously reflecting high-energy blue light,” which is challenging, he said.
According to the research report, the tarantula’s unique coloration comes from two types of hairs, “metallic blue and purple,” present on different parts of the body, including the legs, the chelicera (pincer-like appendages in front of the tarantula). mouth) and the carapace (upper shell).
The spiders’ coloration and other characteristics varied depending on gender and age. Women and young men have more purple hair than metallic blue hair on parts of their bodies, the study says.
The newly discovered tarantula lives in tree hollows, making it difficult to catch as researchers had to climb trees to lure it out, Chomphuphuang said.
“During our expedition, we walked in the evening and night at low tide and were only able to collect two of them,” he added.
According to the research report, Chilobrachys natanicharum had previously been spotted in the commercial tarantula trade market, known only as “Chilobrachys sp. electric blue tarantula,” but with no information on its characteristics or natural habitats.
Typically, tarantulas are either terrestrial or arboreal, but the Chilobrachys natanicharum can live in both environments, the researchers said, demonstrating its adaptability.
But given the decline of mangrove forests – largely caused by deforestation – the electric blue tarantula is also one of the rarest tarantulas in the world, according to Chomphuphuang.