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Tarantulas with eight-inch legs discovered in Sri Lanka

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
April 5th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

A new species of giant tarantulas with leg span of eight inches have been discovered in northern Sri Lanka. Described as being about the "size of your face," researcher Ranil Nanayakkara named the species after a police officer who helped his team wade through war-torn territory in the country's north.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Nanayakkara said that when he discovered a new species of tarantula during an arachnid expedition in 2009, he knew it was a big deal - literally.

"It was slightly smaller than the size of the plate we have dinner on," Ranil Nanayakkara told reporters.

As featured in the December issue of the British Tarantula Society's journal, the spider is estimated to have a leg span of eight inches and is part of the Poecilotheria, or "Pokies" genus, which contains about 15 different species. Pokies are known for distinctive black and white stripes on their abdomens.

"It can be quite attractive, unless spiders freak you out," British Tarantula Society journal editor Peter Kirk said.

Nanayakkara named the new spider "Poecilotheria rajaei" in honor of a police officer who helped his team wade through war-torn northern Sri Lanka.

All specimens were collected using a hand net and preserved with 70 percent alcohol. Nanayakkara says he collected between 50 and 100 of the new species.

"The first specimen of this new species, which was brought to the attention of the authors, was a dead specimen of a male which had been killed by local villagers," the study reads. "Upon close inspection it was noticed that it did not conform to the descriptions of any of the species of Poecilotheria so far described from the island."

Found only in India and Sri Lanka, pokies are colorful spiders, but not the largest - some tarantulas can be 12 inches in diameter.

"This particular group of spiders is one of the more popular within the spider-keeping hobby, the tarantula-keeping hobby," Kirk said.

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