Cave rescuers’ names given to newfound species
Cave rescue hero Richard Harris and diving partner Craig Challen have had two newly discovered spiders named after them.
The trapdoor spiders live only in caves in the Nullarbor Plain, with four new species identified.
Western Australian Museum scientists discovered the spiders which are blind and extremely rare.
Lead scientist Mark Harvey said the team wanted to honour the key people involved in the 2018 Thai cave rescue of 12 boys and their coach from a local soccer team.
Dr Harris, from Adelaide, and Dr Challen, from Perth, were active explorers of Australian caves and passionate about conservation, Dr Harvey said.
The remaining two spiders were named after Thai divers Beirut Pakbara and Saman Kunan, who both died as a result of the rescue effort.
The only previously identified spider of the type was the Troglodiplura lowryi.
Dr Harvey said the Troglodiplura belong to the Anamidae, a family of Australian mygalomorph spiders - a group of spiders with fangs that point straight down, such as tarantulas and trapdoor spiders.
"Very few mygalomorph spiders have evolved into living an isolated existence in subterranean habitats," he said.
"Yet our research has shown all four of the new species have developed extreme troglobitic characteristics, including the complete lack of eyes and elongated legs - making them arguably one of the world's most specialised cave-dwelling mygalomorph.
"Each of the species occur in single caves on the Nullarbor Plain and each are extremely rare. "Nearly all specimens in museum collections are only known from fragments of cuticle painstakingly collected by cave biologists.
"Conserving the caves is the only way to conserve these ancient irreplaceable spiders."
The newly identied species have named Troglodiplura harrisi, Troglodiplura challeni, Troglodiplura beirutpakbarai and Troglodiplura samankunani.
Originally published as Cave rescuers' names given to newfound species