Deep within the darkness of a forest cave in Ecuador, a “giant” eight-legged creature hung from its web. That’s when it was spotted by researchers.
Scientists were exploring two neighboring caves in the Cavernas del Anzu Forest Reserve in 2021, according to a study published Nov. 28 in the European Journal of Taxonomy. They were searching for cellar spiders — and they were successful.
In the caves, researchers collected juvenile and adult spiders, some bearing egg sacs, the study said. The specimens turned out to be a new species of cellar spider known as Priscula pastaza.
A photo shows the brown spiders, including a female with a robust egg sac.
The group of experts said they identified the new species using DNA analysis and by comparing its habitat, behavior and appearance to other similar species.
One of the male specimens collected from the cave had a body length of about 0.2 inches, but its first leg measured significantly longer at more than 1.6 inches, the study said. Female specimens were “in general similar to male.”
Scientists described the spiders as “light-brown” with “whitish marks” near their eyes. The creatures have “light brown” sternums with “thin darker brown margins,” and their abdomens are “monochromous pale gray.”
Because the species is possibly a troglobite — which means it exclusively resides in caves — its color is “paler than usual” for cellar spiders, researchers said. However, the creatures are “by no means as pale or even whitish” as other types of cave-dwelling cellar spiders.
Priscula pastaza specimens were found “hanging in very fine and barely visible webs, freely exposed among rocks or in wall niches,” the study said. Scientists described their habitat as “absolutely lightless.”
Unlike other similar species which produce an average of 42 eggs per egg sac, the new species only produces between six and seven eggs per sac, according to researchers. But the creatures produce “the largest eggs relative to body size of all studied species” included in the study.
Scientists said they named the new species after the Pastaza Province — in eastern Ecuador — where it was discovered.