This Newly Discovered African Tarantula Has a Rude-Looking Horn on Its Back

While many people's reaction to big hairy spiders is usually "AHHH", you've got to admit, this spider's odd-looking back appendage does look rather amusing. The peculiar and previously undocumented protrusion belongs to the tarantula Ceratogyrus attonitifer found in Angola, Central Africa.

While scientists have observed related species of baboon spiders with a back bulge before, they've never encountered any with a horn quite this large, and, uh, swollen.

While the thing in the cover photo does look deflated, it is a photo of a deceased specimen whose horn shrivelled as a consequence of the preservation process, entomologist Ian Engelbrecht from the University of Pretoria in South Africa told ScienceAlert.

"In life the horn is quite turgid, and much larger."

The newly described tarantula species Ceratogyrus attonitifer (Ian Enelbrecht/CC-BY 4.0)The newly described tarantula species Ceratogyrus attonitifer (Ian Enelbrecht/CC-BY 4.0)

"What the purpose is, is an absolute mystery," Engelbrecht said.

Engelbrcht and his colleague John Midgley from Rhodes University in South Africa encountered this species, previously unknown to science, while exploring for National Geographic's Okavango Wilderness Project. This project aims to identify the biodiversity in the entire Okavango catchment of Angola, Namibia and Botswana, to inform sustainable conservation efforts.

Midgley told ScienceAlert that apart from the tarantula they also found other potentially new-to-science species, including two other spiders, a hover fly and a dung beetle.

"These need further study to confirm their status though," Midgley explained.

The researchers named the tarantula C. attonitifer; in Latin -fer means "bearer of" and attonit- stands for "astonishment".

"No other spider in the world possesses a similar foveal protuberance," the researchers write in their paper. Well, none that we known of for sure.

Read more here.