Meet the Stormtroopers! Scientists name new spiders after Star Wars soldiers

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.

Despite being widely distributed across north and central South America, bald-legged spiders had never been confirmed in Colombia until the most recent study.

Arachnologists described a total of six previously unknown species inhabiting the country.

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.

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.

In fact, it is due to their almost identical appearance and ability for camouflage that became the reason for the new bald-legged spider genus to be compared to the fictional stormtroopers.

The researchers said that one of the most striking qualities of the bald-legged spiders is their ability to adhere soil particles to their cuticle, which allows them to be camouflaged by the environment.

Study co-author Dr Carlos Perafan, of Universidad de la Republica in Uruguay, said: "The stormtroopers are the soldiers of the main ground force of the Galactic Empire.

"These soldiers are very similar to each other, with some capacity for camouflage, but with unskillful movements, like this new group of spiders."

He added: "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 the highest known altitude for the family.

It was recorded from an elevation of at least 3,400 metres (11,155 feet) in the central Andes.

But the researchers said that they have evidence of species living above 4,000 metres (13,123 feet).

In the course of their fieldwork, the researchers also confirmed previous assumptions that the bald-legged spiders are well adapted to running across the ground’s surface.

The spiders were seen to stick soil particles to their scaly backs as a means of camouflage against predators.

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The team also recorded several cases of various bald-legged species burrowing into ravine walls or soil – a type of behaviour that had not been reported before.

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.

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