Image credit: Photo by Yael Olek, courtesy of the University of Haifa
While conducting research in the Sands of Samar in the southern Arava region of Israel, a team from the department of biology at the University of Haifa-Oranim discovered a new species of sand spider. The spider, which has a leg span larger than five inches, is thought to be the largest of its type native to the Middle East.
The spider's home, however, is in danger of disappearing, placing the newly discovered species in threatened status.
Image credit: Photo by Roy Talbi, courtesy of the University of Haifa
The Sands of Samar is the only remaining desert dune in Israel. Once spanning more than seven kilometers, the dune has been reduced to less than three kilometers due to land rezoning for agriculture and sand quarries. Now, the Israel Land Administration has released a plan to resume mining operations in the remaining dune, action that would destroy this species'—and possibly that of several others—habitat.
Dr. Shanas, who led the research team, explained:
The new discovery shows how much we still have to investigate, and that there are likely to be many more species that are unknown to us. If we do not preserve the few habitats that remain for these species, they will become extinct before we can even discover them.
Named Cerbalus aravensis, the spider is thought to be nocturnal and active during the hottest months of the year. Little else can be known about the spider, however, until a full biological assessment is conducted. Such an assessment, however, might not be possible if mining resumes. As Dr. Shanas commented, "the discovery of this new spider illustrates our obligation to preserve the dune."
Read more about new species:
Wild and Weird New Species Discovered in 2009 (Slideshow)
New Species Discovered Thanks to Vomiting Snake
94 New Species Described by the California Academy of Sciences in 2009