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August 19, 2019

Newly discovered African tarantula species has floppy horn

February 14, 2019
A newly discovered type of African tarantula has researchers stumped. (iStockphoto)

As if tarantulas weren’t freaky enough, a newly discovered species possesses a floppy horn on its back!

The eight-legged freak, dubbed Ceratogyrus attonitifer, was discovered in the woods of the southern African nation Angola. The finding was published on the website African Invertebrates.

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But what intrigues researchers the most is that they have no idea what purpose that protuberance serves.

“This is the only known species with a soft horn,” South African entomologist John Midgley explained to website Earther. “In general, horned tarantulas are an oddity; this species is one of a kind.”

Midgley — who co-wrote the study with invertebrate conservation scientist Ian Engelbrecht — confirmed the creature was a female baboon spider, which is in the African tarantula group, but its appearance was unlike anything he had ever witnessed before. Jutting from its back is the squishy tube, like a deflated balloon, which contains no muscles.

He added that some tarantulas do have hornlike projections on their backs, but they are comparatively small knobs with hard structures.

“I was quite amazed when I saw it, and sent a picture to Ian as soon as I could,” Midgeley told Earther, noting that the mysterious appendage was so huge that he and Engelbrecht could barely believe it. “So, I went out looking for more burrows. I found another two spiders the next day and we then knew that this was undescribed and not just an odd mutation.”

The Okavango Wilderness Project, where the tarantula was located, will likely offer protection from would-be poachers who traffic in the illegal pet trade. Midgley hopes further study of the spider occurs in the field — along with solving the mystery behind the floppy horn.

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