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Covered in beautiful, ornate markings, the spiders belong to the genus Poecilotheria, known as “Pokies” for short. These are the tiger spiders, an arboreal group indigenous to India and Sri Lanka that are known for being colorful, fast, and venomous. As a group, the spiders are related to a class of South American tarantula that includes the Goliath bird-eater, the world’s largest.
It was first seen during a Sri Lankan arachnid survey led by Ranil Nanayakkara, co-founder of Sri Lanka’s Biodiversity Education and Research. In October 2009, a local villager presented Nanayakkara and his team with a dead male specimen that didn’t resemble known Poecilotheria in the area. Before the team could begin describing the presumptive new species, they needed more individuals. Scouring the semi-evergreen, forested area for females and juveniles required the help of police inspector Michael Rajakumar Purajah, who accompanied the team through areas just beginning to recover from a civil war. Eventually, the team found enough spiders — including the ones hiding in a hospital — to assemble a detailed description of the new arachnids.
So far, about 15 species have been described within Poecilotheria. Several are endangered, due mostly to loss of habitat. P. metallica, a bright blue beauty, is considered critically endangered. So is P. hanumavilasumica – named after a temple on Rameshwaram Island — which lives among the trees in the island’s disappearing plantations. The spider which most closely resembles P. rajaei is called P. regalis, and so far has only been found on the Indian mainland. Nanayakkara hints that he’s got several more potential new tarantulas up his sleeve, awaiting review.
Originally posted by rockymcgilicutty