A scientist, Ingi Agnarsson, and his four undergraduate assistants at the University of Vermont have named 15 new species of “smiley-faced spiders”. The specimens and species all belong to the genus Spintharus, and the researchers were inspired in naming them after people who supported human rights and/or worked in trying to fight back against climate change. These spiders were thus given names like S. berniesandersi, S. davidattenboroughi, S. barackobamai, S. michelleobmai, S. leonardodicaprioi and S. davidbowiei.
The 15 New Species of Spiders and Their Unique Names
The smiley-faced spiders are bright yellow spiders that owe their uncommon name to the smile-like pattern on their abdomens. They were originally thought to be a single species. One that nonetheless had a vast range, spanning from northern North America all the way down to northern Brazil. Many of the spiders live on islands like Jamaica, the Lesser Antilles, Puerto Rico or Cuba.
A research team part of the Caribbean Biogeography Project or “CarBio” conducted a closer examination of the spiders. In doing so, they found that there were actually many different endemic species rather than a single wide-ranging one. Agnarsson, one of the leaders of CarBio and also a spider expert, had his students perform painstaking lab work and take pictures. He offered them the privilege of naming some of the spiders in exchange for their hard work. CarBio scientists conducted genetic analysis of the spiders, as part of their research.
The Caribbean region has long been known as a hotspot for biological diversity, so the scientists suspected that Spintharus actually consisted of many species. The spiders all look similar to one another, so earlier researchers like Herbert Levi (1921- 2014) had believed them to be a single species.
But the latest DNA analysis has shown that is not the case. Dr. Agnarsson believes that there are still more specimens waiting to be identified, besides the ones belonging to the 15 new species. The results of the current study were released for publishing in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society.
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