New Armored Spiders Species Discovered Crawling in Chinese Caves

Tuesday, 18 Mar 2014 07:04 AM

By Alexandra Ward

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Scientists recently discovered five new species of armored spiders crawling through caves in Southeast China's Karst, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Armored spiders, part of the Tetrablemmidae family, are identifiable by the plate-like "armor" on their abdomens, Entomology Today reported.

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"Distinguished by their peculiar armor-like abdominal pattern, these tropical and subtropical spiders are mainly collected from litter and soil, but like the newly described species some live in caves," according to Science Daily. "Some cave species, but also some soil inhabitants, show typical adaptations of cave spiders, such as loss of eyes. The genus Tetrablemma, for example . . . is distinguished by having only four eyes."

A team of researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences made the armored spider discovery. Spearheaded by zoology professor Shuqiang Li, the group has trolled more than 2,000 caves in the South China Karst, upping the known spider species count from 2,300 to 4,300 over the last 10 years.

Last year, Li and his team identified two other species of cave spiders — the Trogloneta yuensis and Mysmena wawuensis.

"The spiders live in moist leaf litter and the obscure places such as moss and even caves and they prefer very humid habitats," Li said in a statement last May. "Being extremely minute, up to 2 millimeters in total and having cryptic lifestyle these creatures become rather hard to find."

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