A previously unknown type of tarantula has been discovered in Thailand, and it lives exclusively in the hollowed stems of bamboo plants, surprising scientists.
"These animals are truly remarkable; they are the first known tarantulas ever with a bamboo-based ecology," said Narin Chomphuphuang, a researcher at Khon Kaen University's department of entomology and plant pathology in Thailand, in a blog post.
Sippawat subsequently emailed an image of the spider to Chomphuphuang, an arachnologist, which is a scientist who studies spiders.
Chomphuphuang immediately thought it was a new species of tarantula -- but it was only after a field trip to survey and study the spider that the creature was officially declared new to science. Distinct from all other known tarantulas, it has been declared a new genus and species -- Taksinus bambus. It is named in honor of the 18th century Thai king Taksin the Great.
Tarantulas in Southeast Asia usually live on the ground or in trees. Tree-dwelling tarantulas usually spend time on different types of trees, and this is the first tarantula to live exclusively on a specific plant. The newly recognized spider is the only tree-dwelling tarantula to live in Thailand, the study said.
Chomphuphuang said making its home in bamboo had many advantages for the spider. Bamboo contains moisture that helps the spider maintain its temperature -- especially important for tarantulas, which molt and shed their exoskeleton. The slippery surface of the bamboo also deters predators.
"We examined all of the trees in the area where the species was discovered. This species is unique because it is associated with bamboo, and we have never observed this tarantula species in any other plant," he said in a news release.
The tarantulas do not bore holes into the bamboo stems themselves. Instead, they depend on the assistance of other animals.
Bamboo is attacked by numerous animals, including beetles and worms, the study said. Or sometimes the bamboo cracks open as a result of changes in humidity.
Chomphuphuang said that few people realized how much wildlife in Thailand is still undocumented.
"We're primarily on a mission to study and save the biodiversity and wildlife found in these forests, particularly species-specific microhabitats, from extinction," he said.
"The first step is to inform people about this species and their locality. Then this forest area must be managed and protected for wildlife."
The research was published last week in the journal Zookeys.