Researchers from Thailand have unveiled a new tarantula species characterized by its striking blue shade. Dubbed Chilobrachys natanicharum, this arachnid is commonly referred to as the electric blue tarantula. The detailed account of this discovery was published on September 18 in the journal ZooKeys.
This vibrant spider was unearthed in the Phang-Nga province of southern Thailand. This discovery came on the heels of the identification of another tarantula species, the Taksinus bambus, also known as the bamboo culm tarantula.
JoCho Sippawat, a well-known local wildlife vlogger, was part of the team that chanced upon the bamboo culm tarantula.
Later this year, Sippawat teamed up with Chomphuphuang for an exploratory journey in the same province to delve deeper into the diversity and distribution of tarantulas. It was during this exploration that the distinctively colored new species came to light.
Blue is a rarity in the natural world. Occasionally, it can manifest in creatures not typically associated with this shade, like the recent sightings of blue lobsters in Massachusetts and France.
Some creatures have developed vivid colors, such as blues, reds, and yellows, as a defensive strategy, giving off a toxic appearance to deter potential predators.
Producing the color blue requires an organism to absorb minimal energy while reflecting high-energy blue light. Given the intricate nature of producing molecules that can absorb such energy, blue is not as prevalent as other shades in nature.
The study elaborated that the electric blue tarantula owes its unique shade not to blue pigment but to the special construction of its hair. These hairs have nanostructures that interact with light, resulting in the blue tint.
Depending on the lighting conditions, these hairs can also exhibit a more violet hue, offering an iridescent look.
While this species had earlier made appearances in the tarantula trade, there was no formal record of its natural habitat or distinctive characteristics.
The task of naming this species was entrusted to an auction. The chosen scientific name, Chilobrachys natanicharum, pays homage to executives Natakorn and Nichada Changrew from Nichada Properties Co., Ltd., Thailand.
The auction’s revenue was channeled to further the education of Thailand’s Indigenous Lahu children and aid cancer patients with their medical expenses.
The discovery underlines the ongoing significance of taxonomy in the realms of research and conservation. Moreover, it accentuates the urgency to shield mangrove forests from relentless deforestation, especially since the electric blue tarantula ranks amongst the rarest of its kind globally.