It may be a variation of an existing species or a new one in its own right. Either way, the fact remains that a face-size species of spider exists in Sri Lanka. The actual leg span of this tarantula is eight inches in diameter.
The spider, known as Poecilotheria rajaei, was actually documented as early as 2009 by the co-founder of the Biodiversity Education and Research located in Sri Lanka, Mr. Ranil Nanayakkara. If you’re worried that you may encounter this large tarantula on leisure travel to Sri Lanka, don’t be.
Nanayakkara says the Poecilotheria rajaei is very small, and sightings of the spider are subsequently rare. He says they tend to live in old trees.
‘They prefer well-established old trees, but due to deforestation the number have dwindled and due to lack of suitable habitat they enter old buildings.’
Admittedly, with the ongoing deforestation Sri Lanka experiences as it’s economy develops, the natural habit of the spider is being threatened. In some cases, the spider has been found to migrate into well-established old buildings.
Nanayakkara is conducting DNA tests on the spider which will determine whether or not it is a newly discovered species of large spiders. The Poecilotheria rajaei, at eight inches in length, ranks as the third largest spider behind the Goliath birdeater of South Africa and the giant huntsman spider of Laos. Both large species of spiders have leg spans of twelve inches.
Speaking to Sky News Peter Kirk, who covered the discovery for the British Tarantula Society’s journal said: ‘It demonstrates that wildlife continues to survive whilst we are in the throes of conflict and that they can adapt to its changing environment – but also highlights that we risk destroying the habitats of species new to science and condemning them to extinction before they are even discovered.’
Arachnologist Robert Raven, curator at the Queensland Museum in Australia, tells Wired, the team has done a thorough job describing the spider, but isn’t entirely convinced the team has found a new species – yet.
“The description and figures are excellent and will provide a good basis for establishing whether it is a good species,” he said, noting the possibility that the spiders are a local variant of a related species. Raven says not enough is known about the Poecilotheria genus in general, and that more detailed studies of each known species are needed before new ones can be reliably added. “The genusPoecilotheria has not been taxonomically revised,” he said. “Popping new species out in that situation is always going to be fraught with doubt and difficulty.”
The face-sized tarantula isn’t the only giant spider making headlines recently. In March, a new study revealed that bat-eating spiders exist on every continent except Antarctica.
“The observation of bat-catching by spiders is not that peculiar if we consider the fact that a number of larger-sized spiders are known to supplement their arthropod diet by occasionally preying on vertebrates,” wrote Martin Nyffeler and Mirjam Knornschild in the study.
Face-sized tarantula lives in trees in Sri Lanka
The thing of nightmares! Tarantula the size of a human face discovered in Sri Lanka
New face-sized tarantula discovered in Sri Lanka
Deforestation in Sri Lanka