The World's largest web spinning spider discovered

A new species of giant spider so big it can eat birds and bats tangled in its four-feet wide web has been discovered by scientists.

The giant arachnid, found in Madagascar and Africa, grows to more than four inches in diameter and is officially the world's biggest web spinning spider.

Named Nephila Komaci, the species of golden orb weavers usually eats insects but it can also prey on small birds, bats and even lizards.

While it is not poisonous to humans it could issue a nasty bite claim the researchers who discovered the new species while reviewing museum specimens found in the 2003 and the 1970s.

Like many spiders, it is only the females that are the giants, with males up to five times smaller than their mates.

The new species was discovered by Dr MatjaĆŸ Kuntner, at the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts, along with Dr Jonathan Coddington, at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington.

More than 41,000 spider species are known to science with about 400 - 500 new species added each year.

But for some well-known varieties, such as the giant golden orb weavers, the last time a new species was discovered was in the 19th century.

Nephila spiders are renowned for being the largest web-spinning spiders. They make the largest orb webs, which often exceed three feet (1 metre) in diameter.

The team had launched several expeditions to South Africa specifically to find this species, but all were unsuccessful, suggesting that perhaps the Nephila specimen, first collected in 1978, was a hybrid or perhaps an extinct species.

However in 2003 a second specimen from Madagascar in the Naturhistorisches Museum Wien in Vienna, Austria suggested it was not a hybrid.

Finally a few years ago a South African colleague found a male and two females in Tembe Elephant Park, and it became clear that the specimens were indeed a valid new species, said the researchers.

Dr Coddington said despite its size the spider was not dangerous to people.

"Like most spiders, they eat anything they can catch," he said.

"They probably prefer fairly large insects, like grasshoppers, but will take what they can get.

"The webs are strong enough to stop small birds, bats, or the rare unlucky lizard. The web is a big tactical advantage, and it is not unusual for Nephila to kill organisms several times their size."

The new species, announced in the Public Library of Science ONE journal, was named after Dr Kuntner’s best friend Andrej Komac, who died in an accident at the time of these discoveries.

Now Dr Kuntner and Dr Coddington have urged the public to find new populations of spider in Africa or Madagascar

"We fear the species might be endangered, as its only definite habitat is a sand forest in Tembe Elephant Park,” said Dr Coddington.
The World's largest web spinning spider discovered The World's largest web spinning spider discovered Reviewed by Bobby Gabriel on 3:33 AM Rating: 5

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