Peter Quattrocelli, Researchers believe thousands of spiders in Australia have not yet been identified and scientifically named, ABC News, 14 November 2023
Scientists believe there might be as many as 15,000 different species of spiders in Australia, with dozens only just formally identified and named.
- Dr Robert Raven believes there are around 15,000 different spider species in Australia
- Fewer than 3,000 have been identified so far
- Almost 50 new ground-hunting spiders have been described
A recent project by researchers with the University of Southern Queensland, published in the international journal Zootaxa, has named and described 48 new ground-hunting spiders, with some named after notable Australians.
Lead author Dr Robert Raven had predicted his research, spanning around three decades during his tenure with the Queensland Museum Network, would uncover 15 different species at most — but there were many, many more.
“I was blown away … there’s still at least 100 or 150 more species that I’ve got on my books that can be named,” Dr Raven said.
The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) estimates that there are about 10,000 species of spiders in Australia, and Murdoch University’s Fauna Portal identifies about 4,000 of them.
Dr Raven said the latest research indicates that the number of undiscovered spiders could be significantly higher.
“I’d probably have to adjust it to at least 15,000,” he said.
“It’s a rich and amazing country, enormous in size, and very diverse in pockets of populations and species of things that are in small areas.”
The species identified in this latest research come from the Miturgidae family.
Around half of those identified are from Western Australia.
“The newly described species have a body length of up to 10 millimetres, and are nocturnal and fast-moving spiders,” Dr Raven said.
“Apart from one that I found in Tasmania, they’re in pretty dry western areas.”
Beginning in the 1990s, Dr Raven’s research relied mostly on spiders collected by museums across Australia.
He said field work was difficult, especially because many of these species are so hard to see at night when they’re most active.
New species named after notable Australians
Several of the new species have been named after notable members of Australia’s ecological community.
Miturgopelma rangerstaceyae, for example, was named after former Totally Wild presenter and national park ranger, Stacey Thomson.
“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.I think it’s a stunner!
Ms Thomson said she also 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.”
Others to be honoured by having a new species of spider named after them are Dr Barbara Baehr — who has discovered more spider species from Australia than any person in the past century — and noted arachnologist Caitlin Henderson.
The 48 new species of ground-hunting spiders are:
- Miturgopelma alanyeni
- Miturgopelma archeri
- Miturgopelma baehrae
- Miturgopelma bandalup
- Miturgopelma bogantungan
- Miturgopelma brachychiton
- Miturgopelma brevirostra
- Miturgopelma buckaringa
- Miturgopelma bungabiddy
- Miturgopelma caitlinae
- Miturgopelma calperum
- Miturgopelma couperi
- Miturgopelma culgoa
- Miturgopelma echidna
- Miturgopelma echinoides
- Miturgopelma harveyi
- Miturgopelma hebronae
- Miturgopelma kinchega
- Miturgopelma maningrida
- Miturgopelma minderoo
- Miturgopelma oakleigh
- Miturgopelma paruwi
- Miturgopelma rangerstaceyae
- Miturgopelma rar
- Miturgopelma rixi
- Miturgopelma sieda
- Miturgopelma spinisternis
- Miturgopelma watarrka
- Miturgopelma woz
- Miturgopelma yarmina
- Knotodo coolgardie
- Knotodo eneabba
- Knotodo muckera
- Knotodo narelleae
- Knotodo nullarbor
- Knotodo shoadi
- Knotodo toolinna
- Xeromiturga gumbardo
- Xeromiturga bidgemia
- Xeromiturga mardathuna
- Xeromiturga pilbara
- Miturgiella vulgaris
- Xistera auriphila
- Xistera barlee
- Xistera coventryi
- Xistera jandateae
- Xistera serpentine