Scientists have discovered a new spider genus that were so alike in both size and markings, that they were named after the Stormtroopers in Star Wars.
The new genus, called Stormtropis, belong to a family of bald-legged spiders, which are native to South America and Central America.
But, the six new spiders are among the very first bald-legged spiders recorded in Colombia.
The family are described as small to medium-sized species that look very similar to each other and their remarkable ability for camouflage.
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A newly discovered type of spider has been named after the Stormtroopers in Star Wars – because the different species all look like each other. The new species are among the very first bald-legged spiders recorded in Colombia
The previously unknown species have been described by Dr. Carlos Perafan and Dr. Fernando Perez-Miles of the Universidad de la Republica.
Four of the new spiders were unable to fit into any already existing genus, so the scientists had to create the new name, which in reference to the Galactic Empire’s soldiers in the popular Sci-fi franchise.
Like the Stormtroopers, the spiders “are very similar to each other, with some capacity for camouflage”.
According to the study, the newfound spiders are also alike in being somewhat clumsy.
One of the most striking qualities of the spiders is their ability to adhere soil particles to their cuticle, which allows them to be camouflaged by the environment.
The spiders were seen to stick soil particles to their scaly backs as a means of camouflage against predators.
Study co-author Dr Carlos Perafan, of Universidad de la Republica in Uruguay, said: ‘These soldiers are very similar to each other, with some capacity for camouflage, but with unskillful movements, like this new group of spiders.’
Four of the new spiders were unable to fit into any already existing genus, so the scientists had to create the new name, which in reference to the Galactic Empire’s soldiers in the popular Sci-fi franchise
The research team said bald-legged spiders are a family of only 11 very similarly looking, small- to medium-sized species, whose placement in the ‘Tree of Life’ has long been a matter of debate
‘We wanted to make a play on words with the name of the known genus, Paratropis, and of course, we also wanted to pay tribute to one of the greatest sagas of all time.’
One of the new ‘stormtrooper’ species (Stormtropis muisca) was found at an altitude at an elevation of at least 11,155 feet (3,400 metres) in the central Andes.
But the researchers said that they have evidence of species living above 4,000 metres (13,123 feet).
They found that the males have just two claws on their feet, while other bald-legged spiders have three claws.
The males also lack the group’s leg spines and have genitals that are more elongated while the females’ genitals have a tubular “neck” and an overall mushroom shape.
The team found that not only are bald-legged spiders present in Colombia, but they are actually abundant there.
They documented several cases of various bald-legged species burrowing into ravine walls or soil, which is behaviour that had not been previously reported.
Their suggestion is that it might be a secondary adaptation, so that the spiders could exploit additional habitats.
The findings were published in the journal ZooKeys.
Four of the new spiders were unable to fit into any already existing genus, so the scientists had to create a brand new one for them, which they called Stormtropis in reference to the Galactic Empire’s soldiers in Star Wars
Researchers at MPI CBS in Leipzig, Germany and the Uppsala University in Sweden conducted a study which found that even in infants, a stress reaction happens when they see a spider or snake.
They found that this happens as young as six months-old, when infants are still very immobile and have not had much opportunity to learn that these animals can be dangerous.
‘When we showed pictures of a snake or a spider to the babies instead of a flower or a fish of the same size and color, they reacted with significantly bigger pupils,’ says Stefanie Hoehl, lead investigator of the underlying study and neuroscientist at MPI CBS and the University of Vienna.
‘In constant light conditions this change in size of the pupils is an important signal for the activation of the noradrenergic system in the brain, which is responsible for stress reactions.
‘Accordingly, even the youngest babies seem to be stressed by these groups of animals.’
The researchers concluded that the fear of snakes and spiders is of evolutionary origin, and similarly to primates or snakes, mechanisms in our brains allow us to identify objects and to react to them very quickly.
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