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Goblin Spider Researchers Name 71 New Australian Species

By: Dr Helen Smith, Category: Science, Date: 03 Dec 2013

Mini armoured goblin spiders are widespread but rarely noticed despite being orange!

Goblin spider researchers name 71 new Australian species

Barbara Baehr © Queensland Museum

Goblin spiders are a highly diverse group and species often have a very limited range. The spiders are rarely noticed by non-specialists because most spiders are mostly only a couple of millimetres in length and they live among the ground litter.

They have six eyes and armoured bodies, which helps prevent them drying out. The armour gives these little spiders a characteristic amber-orange coloration.

Members of this genus, Opopaea, have sometimes been called ‘jelly bean’ spiders, because a section of the palpal organ of the male is swollen, like a little orange-brown jelly bean. This genus has been revised as part of a major international Planetary Biodiversity Inventory project to study the systematics of goblin spiders worldwide.

We have increased the number of described Opopaea species in Australia from 13 to 84. Twenty one of the new species are from New South Wales.

Collaborations between researchers at different institutions are often an effective way to approach projects, with each collaborator bringing their own skills to the project. Here, the main author is Dr Barbara Baehr based at the Queensland Museum in Brisbane; other authors are Dr Mark Harvey at the Western Australian Museum (who is the regional coordinator for the Goblin spider PBI) and Dr Ricardo Ott, at the Museu de Ciências Naturais da Fundação Zoobotânica do Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil. I have worked on some NSW Opopaea and this is recognised with joint authorship on six species in the overall paper.

The illustrated species, Opopaea sylvestrella, is only found on Lord Howe Island. It is named in reference to the Lord Howe Woodhen (Gallirallus sylvestris) because many of the specimens we have examined were collected during faunal surveys as part of the ‘Woodhen project’ to save this endangered bird.

More information

  • Baehr, B.C., Harvey, M.S., Smith, H.M. & Ott, R. 2013. The goblin spider genus Opopaea in Australia and the Pacific islands (Araneae: Oonopidae). Memoirs of the Queensland Museum – Nature 58: 107–338. Brisbane. ISSN 0079–8835