Females of the species boast blue-hued legs, as well as an iridescent sheen on their outer shell and abdomen (Ranil Nanayakkara)
by Meilan Solly, smithsonian.com
Most members of the Chilobrachys spider genus have muted brown, black or grey coloring.
But Chilobrachys jonitriantisvansicklei—a newly described tarantula native to Sri Lanka—defies this trend. As a trio of researchers reports in the British Tarantula Society Journal, females of the species boast brilliant blue coloring on their legs and an iridescent sheen on their hard outer shells and abdomens.
“When we first spotted them I was in awe, lost for words,” lead author Ranil Nanayakkara of the University of Kelaniya tells National Geographic’s Nadia Drake.Nanayakkara and his colleagues discovered the unusually adorned arachnid in a section of Sri Lanka’s southwestern rainforest surrounded by tea and rubber plantations.
The spider, named after donor and conservationist Joni Triantis Van Sickle, measures around five inches long (Drake notes that it’s “big enough to comfortably hug a donut”) and is a speedy, aggressive predator that darts out from its underground burrow when hapless insects arrive on the scene.
Compared with their showier female counterparts, male members of the species are smaller and, according to Nanayakkara, “mossy brown in color.”
This the first new Chilobrachys species found in the South Asian country since the end of the 19th century.
Previously, Sri Lanka’s only Chilobrachys representative was a brown spider called C. nitelus. The researchers spent two years identifying physical differences between C. jonitriantisvansicklei and more than two dozen Chilobrachys species native to nearby India.
Based on this analysis, they determined that the turquoise-tinted tarantula was wholly unique.
Still, Robert Raven, principal curator of arachnids at Australia’s Queensland Museum, explains to Drake, “The possibility that the new one is [actually] one of the named Indian species will eventually need to be addressed,” likely through genetic sequencing aimed at confirming the spider’s singularity and gauging its population size.