15 Nov Almost 50 new spider species identified in Australia
Having a toad hunting arachnid named after you may not appear flattering.
But former children’s TV host Stacey Thomson says she is honoured to receive a nod after almost 50 new species of spiders across Australia were identified.
Known as “Ranger Stacey” on TV show Totally Wild, Ms Thomson is among a number of Australians who have had a spider species named after them in a research project published in the international journal Zootaxa.
Overall, the decades-long study led by Dr Robert Raven documented 48 new ground hunting spiders, including a salute to Ms Thomson – Miturgopelma rangerstaceyae.
“I’m honoured to have a species of spider named after me,” Ms Thomson said on Instagram.
“A nocturnal, fast-moving toad hunter. OK, it may not be gorgeous or cute to many, but this is an important discovery.
“Thanks to Dr Robert Raven and the team for recognising my contribution to environmental education and awareness.”
Dr Raven first began his research in the late 1990s during his tenure with Queensland Museum Network.
He thought he might unearth “one or two” new spider species but identified almost 50 – and counting.
Dr Raven predicts up to 15,000 different species of spiders are in Australia, with less than 3000 currently identified.
“We have new molecular methods coming in and they are recognising a whole lot more species than I thought,” he told AAP.
“If it comes up to 15,000 (species) Australia will represent a quarter of the world’s spider population.”
About half of the 48 spiders identified in the study are from Western Australia.
Another Australian acknowledged among the new spider species is paleontologist Mike Archer, known for his attempts to clone the Tasmanian tiger.
Dr Raven said the spider was collected at a World Heritage listed fossil site in Queensland’s northwest synonymous with Dr Archer – Riversleigh near Mount Isa.
“I thought it was appropriate to name it after him. I was able to get into the site because of him,” he said.
Others name checked include noted arachnologists – wildlife photographer Caitlin Henderson and Dr Barbara Baehr, credited with describing more spider species from Australia than anyone in the past century.
Dr Raven said he gave a special nod to “Ranger Stacey” for raising the awareness of spiders through stories on her children’s TV show.
“I hope that these stories helped show children around Australia what incredible creatures spiders are,” Ms Thomson said.
She described her 10mm arachnid namesake as a “stunner”.
The former kids TV favourite has already had a species of snail named after her.
“Maybe it’s a theme … I can be an ambassador for some of the animals that aren’t the most adorable but still really important,” Ms Thomson said.
(Australian Associated Press)