A new type of tarantula, which lives exclusively in the hollowed-out stems of bamboo, has been discovered in Thailand, surprising scientists.
“These animals are truly remarkable; these are the first known tarantulas with a bamboo-based ecology,” Narin Chomphuphuang, a researcher at the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology at Khon Kaen University in Thailand, said in a blog post.
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The new species of spider was first discovered by Thai wildlife enthusiast JoCho Sippawat, who has 2.5 million YouTube subscribers.
The YouTuber first saw the spider while traveling in the forest near his home in Mae Tho, Mueang Tak district, Tak province, northwest Thailand, according to Chomphuphuang.
After spotting the spider, Sippawat emailed an image to Chomphuphuang, who is an arachnologist – a type of scientist who studies spiders.
Chomphuphuang immediately identified the spider as a new species of tarantula – but it was only after a field trip to investigate and study the spider that the creature was officially declared new to science.
Distinct from all other known tarantulas, it has been declared a new genus and species – Taksinus bambus. It is named in honor of the 18th century Thai king Taksin the Great.
Typically, Southeast Asian tarantulas live on the ground or in trees. Tree tarantulas usually spend time on different types of trees and this is the first tarantula to live exclusively on a specific plant.
The newly discovered spider is the only tree tarantula to live in Thailand, according to the study.
Making its home entirely out of bamboo had many benefits for the new spider, Chomphuphuang said. Bamboo contains moisture which helps the spider to maintain its temperature, which is especially important for tarantulas due to molting and shedding of their exoskeleton.
The slippery surface of bamboo also deters predators.
“We examined all the trees in the area where the species was discovered. This species is unique because it is associated with bamboo, and we have never observed this tarantula in any other plant,” Chomphuphuang said in a press release.
Taksinus bambus has adapted to life in hollow bamboo stalks by constructing tube-like boreholes with its silk as nest entrances. He also builds tubes of silk inside the bamboo that he can retreat into.
Tarantulas don’t bore holes in the bamboo stalks themselves – rather, they rely on help from other animals.
Bamboo is attacked by many animals, including beetles and worms, according to the study. Sometimes bamboo cracks open due to changes in humidity.
The researchers said there are many wild animals in Thailand that remain undocumented.
Chomphuphuang said few people realize how undocumented Thai wildlife is still.
“Our main mission is to study and save the biodiversity and fauna present in these forests, in particular the species-specific microhabitats, from extinction,” he said.
“The first step is to educate people about this species and its locality. Then this forest area needs to be managed and protected for wildlife.
The research was published last week in the journal Zookeys.