Tuesday, Dec. 08, 2009

New Spiders from New Guinea

It was like Christmas in springtime for salticid lovers when Wayne Maddison, a biologist at the University of British Columbia, returned from New Guinea with not one but as many as 50 brand-new species of the peculiar spider — adding to the 5,000 or so salticids already known. Also called jumping spiders, salticids don't build webs; rather, they spot prey with their extraordinarily sharp vision, then use their powerful legs to pounce. Nabbing so many new species at once was good for scientists who want to understand spider evolution and for medical researchers who look to spider venom for potentially useful compounds. Best of all, said Maddison, there could be another 5,000 species yet to be discovered.