Australia’s rich and diverse fauna continues to astonish us, with the documentation of a new spider species from the continent.
This newly discovered species, a blind daddy long-legs spider, was located in boreholes in Western Australia’s dry Pilbara region. This is the first cave-adapted daddy long-legs spider to be reported from the continent, and other blind species of this genus have previously only been found in Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam.
“It represents a subfamily that was previously thought to be restricted to the tropical north and east of the continent,” says Bernhard Huber, one of the authors of a recent study published in the journal Subterranean Biology.
“The new species suggests that these spiders were widely distributed in Australia before the continent’s aridification in the last tens of millions of years,” he adds.
Together with it, another extraordinary daddy long-legs species was described as new to science from Réunion island. It was collected in the Grotte de La Tortue, a 300,000-year-old lava tube. Its closest known relatives are in eastern Africa, which begs the question of how the species reached the island.
The researchers believe its ground-dwelling ancestor arrived to Réunion “relatively recently and by highly accidental means (such as rafts or storms)” but adapted quickly to subterranean life.
“If our generic assignment is correct, then the ancestor of Buitinga ifrit must have reached Réunion from East Africa within the last few million years,” they write in their paper.
Curiously, both spiders were named after mythical underground dwellers: Belisana coblynau, after “the mythical gnome-like creatures that are said to haunt mines and quarries,” and Buitinga ifrit, after “a demon in Islamic mythology that is often associated with the underworld.”
Reference: “First blind daddy long-legs spiders from Australia and Réunion (Araneae, Pholcidae)” by Bernhard A. Huber, Guanliang Meng, Huon L. Clark and Grégory Cazanove, 24 July 2023, Subterranean Biology.