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Five New Species of Armored Spiders Identified in Chinese Caves

Armored spiders are medium to small species that derive their name from the complex pattern of the plates covering their abdomen strongly resembling body armor. Lurking in the darkness of caves in Southeast China, scientists have discovered and described five new species of this exciting group of spiders. The study was published online on March 13, 2014 in the open-access journal ZooKeys. The common name “armored spiders” is given to the engaging family Tetrablemmidae. Distinguished by their peculiar armor-like abdominal pattern, these tropical and subtropical spiders are mainly collected from litter and soil, but like the newly described species some live in caves. Some cave species, but also some soil inhabitants, show typical adaptations of cave spiders, such as loss of eyes. The genus Tetrablemma, for example, to which two of the new species belong, is distinguished by having only four eyes. All these new spiders were collected from the South China Karst, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The South China Karst spans the provinces of Guangxi, Guizhou, and Yunnan. It is noted for its karst features and landscapes, as well as rich biodiversity. UNESCO describes the South China Karst as "unrivalled in terms of the diversity of its karst features and landscapes." Colleagues from the Chinese Academy of Sciences under the leadership of Professor Shuqiang LI have investigated more than 2,000 caves in the South China Karst. Several hundred new species of cave spiders are reported by Dr. Li and colleagues. As a result, the total known spider species of China increased from 2,300 species to 4,300 species in the last ten years. [Press release] [ZooKeys article]