October 29, 2009
The largest-ever orb-weaving spider has been discovered by researchers in a remote park in South Africa. Once thought to be extinct, the Nephila komaci was tracked down by Matjaz Kunter, chair of the Institute of Biology of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts and Jonathan Coddington, senior scientist and curator of arachnids and myriapods at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. The duo had made several trips to South Africa specifically to find these species. Until now, N. komaci had successfully evaded the team.
These gold and black arachnids debut just in time for Halloween. But the males get the short stick in this Halloween tale. They’re a boring brown color and tiny, as it turns out, though the scientists are quick to point out that that is the normal size. The females, on the other hand, are giant. Their bodies can measure a whopping 1.5 inches, and their leg span can reach up to 5 inches.
The intricate webs that these creatures weave can measure as much as three feet in diameter—imagine using that as a Halloween decoration.
Be sure to stay tuned for our next Halloween-mystery: Bats in the northeast United States are dying from a peculiar disease that leaves them with white noses. Smithsonian scientists are on a mission to learn why.
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