KEY POINTS

  • Researchers discovered a new tarantula genus that has a "bamboo-based ecology"
  • The tarantulas don't bore into the bamboo themselves, but rely on other insects
  • "It is not an exaggeration to say they are now Thailand's rarest tarantulas": Researchers

A species discovered in Thailand is the first known tarantula to live exclusively in bamboo stalks. The unique spider now represents a new genus.

Tarantulas in Southeast Asia are typically either terrestrial or arboreal, meaning that they spend time on land or on trees, Pensoft Publishers noted in a statement. 

However, in a new study published in Zookeys, a team of researchers described a new tarantula species that live exclusively on bamboo. It is said to be the first tarantula that can only be found in a specific type of plant.

"We examined all of the trees in the area where the species was discovered. This species is unique because it is associated with bamboo, and we have never observed this tarantula species in any other plant," arachnologist and one of the study authors, Narin Chomphuphuang, of Khon Kaen University, said in the statement.

Researchers named the new species the Taksinus bambus, with the latter part referring to the species' preferred habitat. They have also designated a new genus as it has characteristics that distinguish it from other arboreal spiders in Southeast Asia. They named this new genus "Taksinus" in honor of Thai king Taksin the Great "in commemoration of his early career."

Interestingly, it was actually a YouTuber who first spotted the new species, Pensoft noted. Wildlife YouTuber JoCho Sippawat first found it in Mae Tho in Mueang Tak district and then collaborated with the experts to study the new genus.

Researchers collected the specimens on July 21, 2020. Based on their observations, even though the tarantulas have the "surprising specialization" of living exclusively on bamboo, they don't actually bore the bamboo stems themselves. Instead, they depend on other animals that bore into the bamboo. Researchers believe the spiders occupy the empty nests of other insects that create large holes in the bamboo.

Images shared by the researchers show how the tarantulas and their bamboo habitats look like.

"Bamboo is important to this tarantula, not only in terms of lifestyle but also because it can only be found in high hill forests in the northern part of Thailand, at an elevation of about 1,000 m. It is not an exaggeration to say that they are now Thailand's rarest tarantulas," Chomphuphuang said.

Noting that much of Thailand's wildlife is still undocumented, the researcher said the team is "on a mission" to save the country's biodiversity from extinction. Only 31.64% of the country's land area is still covered in forest, Chomphuphuang noted.

tarantulas A tarantula sits in a bowl during a media preview for 'Spiders Alive' at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, July 1, 2014. Photo: GETTY IMAGES/DON EMMERT/AFP