Electric Blue Tarantula Discovery Shocks Arachnologists

Sep 28, 2023

Arachnophobes have a deep fear of spiders. But if there’s one species pretty enough to get them to take a second look, it might be the newly-discovered Chilobrachys natanicharum.

Narin Chomphuphuang is a researcher at Khon Kaen University. He studies insects and plants. His team found the tarantula, which he told CNN has “a vivid blue-violet hue” that reminded him of  “electric blue sparks.”

The hand-sized spider lives in Thailand. It dwells in the hollows of mangrove trees. It sports jaws and legs of vibrant blue. The spider had dodged contact with humans until now. Swampy mangrove forests can be hard to reach. But the die-off of trees in Thailand due to climate change and human activity exposed the spiders’ native habitat. Even with easier access, the research team found only two.

Perhaps most stunning is how the tarantula becomes so blue. Most animals, including humans, rely on skin pigmentation for their various shades. But Chilobrachys natanicharum appears shockingly blue because of microscopic structures on its hairs. They bend light into the blue-violet spectrum. Because of this, precisely how blue the spider looks depends on the angle at which you view it. From the back, it might seem dull gray or brown. But a cricket looking up at the stealthy predator would get treated to the true blue show … right before becoming its next meal.

Though new to humans, Chilobrachys natanicharum is already having a positive effect on its two-legged discoverers. The research team that found it sold the rights to name the spider. The proceeds will help raise environmental awareness. They'll also protect the lands of the Indigenous Lahu people of northern Thailand.

Photo courtesy JoCho Sippawat on Facebook.

Reflect: Why do you think some animals have bright colors like blue or red? How can learning about new and unique creatures help us protect the environment and the animals that live in it?

Question
What does the phrase “dodged” mean in this article? (Common Core RI.5.4; RI.6.4)
a. escaped
b. lived
c. enjoyed
d. endangered
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