7 new spider species named after great literary spiders

Seven new species of spider, each a member of the genus Ochyrocera, have been discovered in iron caves located in northern Brazil. The researchers who discovered them were able to have a little fun when it came to naming each species. They drew from seven of the most iconic spiders to grace the pages of fantasy and classic literature.

The seven new spider species are documented in an article published in the scientific journal Zookeys by Antonio Brescovit,  Igor Cizauskas and Leandro Mota from Instituto Butantan of Sao Paulo. Members of the Ochyroceratidae genus typically live in caves, grow to no bigger than 2mm in size and have six eyes. Now, with the addition of these seven newest members, the genus has a total of thirty-nine different species.

A- Ochyrocera varys B- Ochyrocera atlachnacha C- Ochyrocera misspider D- Ochyrocera varys with egg sac (Image sourced from http://novataxa.blogspot.ie)

Ochyrocera varys takes its name from George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, (or Game of Thrones if you’re more partial to the television series) character, Lord Varys, who is also referred to as “the Spider” due to his web of spies and intelligence sources. While certainly not a spider in the literal sense, the character is renowned for his craftiness and guile, certainly earning him some measure of recognition as an honourary spider.

Two of the new species take their names from the works of JRR Tolkien. Ochyrocera laracna is named after the giant spider which appears in Lord of the Rings. English-speaking Tolkien fans may recognise the spider’s English name as Shelob, but the Brazilian spider appropriately takes the Portuguese name, Laracna. Another species, Ochyrocera ungoliant, takes the name of Shelob’s mother, who appeared in Tolkien’s Silmarillion.

Shelob’s mother, Ungoliant, casts a pretty daunting shadow

Ochyrocera atlachnacha has the unenviable job of having to live up to a god as its namesake. Named after H.P. Lovecraft’s human-faced spider-god, Atlach-Nacha, this small spider seems positively cuddly in comparison.

Four spiders down and three to go. Spider number five takes its name from the pages of JK Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Fans of the series will probably guess that Ochyrocera aragogue takes its title from the colossal spider, Aragog who inhabits the forbidden forest on the Hogwarts grounds.

Not to mention Aragog’s considerably numerous and enormous children.

Moving away from mythological and classical fantasy to classic children’s writing, we have our last two of the new discoveries. Ochyrocera misspider is named for Little Miss Spider, David Kirk’s popular picture book series, and its title character. Last, but certainly not least, Ochyrocera charlotte takes its name from perhaps the most beloved spider to grace the page. E.B. White’s Charlotte’s web is such a classic story that it is perhaps more unusual that more spiders aren’t named after its caring arachnid.

And so, as though the discovery of seven brand new species wasn’t wondrous enough, we also have seven reminders of some truly wondrous, inspiring and entertaining examples of the power of literature.