From pretty to painful: Seven bizarre new creatures

The tiny peacock spiders have been known to exist since 1874 but it was only after 2008 the breed started getting more recognition. There are 63 subspecies discovered so far. Credit: Peacock Spider’s Facebook.

By AMELIA LIM

Eight-legged enthusiasts would be delighted with the recent discovery of two new species of the mesmerising peacock spider in southeastern Australia.

However, each year thousands of interesting new species are identified. From Harry Potter-inspired spiders to a phallus-shaped worm, here are our seven favourite recently discovered species.

​The fans on the peacock spiders are not just for show, they are there to help the jumping spiders glide through the air smoothly. Picture: Peacock Spider’s Facebook.

1 and 2. Peacock spiders 

Known for the brightly coloured fans on the male peacock spiders, the Maratus breed have often captured the public’s attention in the past, with a video of the mating ritual between one of the subspecies going viral in 2015.

The various hues of blue, orange and black markings found on the male Maratus nimbus are said to resemble clouds across the sky at dusk. Whereas the Maratus sapphirus was named not only after the sapphire jewel-like markings on the fan of the males, but also after Sapphire Bay in New South Wales where it was found.

​Discovered in both New South Wales and South Australia, the M. Nimbus can be found in both grasslands and wet forests. Picture: Peacock Spider’s Facebook.

The new discovery comes shortly after five new species were found last month in Western Australia, however scientists believe there are still more subspecies to be found. The minuscule peacock spiders are difficult to spot, with the biggest subspecies measuring less than 1cm.

“Close-up, these spiders are incredibly colourful and conspicuous, but they are also very, very small, and perhaps it’s no surprise that arachnologists have simply missed them (when) they search for new spiders in the bush,” Melbourne University BioSciences Professor Mark Elgar said.

Importantly, bright colours can also act as camouflage – for example, if you look at paintings of parrots against a plain background they seem incredibly colourful and conspicuous. But these birds can be quite inconspicuous in the trees because the colours break up their body shape,” he said.

The newly discovered wolf spider is said to resemble Aragog from the Harry Potter series, from the marking it sports to its fuzzy coat, huge pedipalps, and aggressive nature. Picture: Cupresses Sempervirens.

3. Aragog’s twin

The Lycosa aragogi wolf spider was discovered in the hilly regions of Iran and is named after the fictional spider Aragog from the Harry Potter movies, because of their uncanny resemblance.

Like most wolf spiders, it is a feisty hunter that preys on other small insects. Even though  L. aragogi is venomous, the venom is not a threat to humans as it is too weak to do major damage to the human body.

There is no better way to fit in with your food than to completely mimic the way they look, just like the ant spider (pictured). Smart move for the spider but bad news for the ants. Picture: R. Whyte

4. The wolf in sheep’s clothing

The Zodariidae Habronestes is a newly discovered species of ant spider found in Cape York Peninsula, Queensland.

The venomous spider only poses a threat to the ants it feeds on as the smart camouflage allows the spider to blend in seamlessly with the ants, making it easier for the hunter to grab its prey.

Scientists were inspired by one of the characters from the Harry Potter series, the Gryffindor sorting hat, when naming the spider because of the unique pointy brown cone on the spider’s back. Picture: Javed Ahmed’s Twitter.

5. Sorting hat spider

Discovered in India last year, the Eriovixia gryffindori is an adorable spider that garnered a lot of attention online when the photo (above) was shared on Twitter.

Affectionately known as the sorting hat spider after the Harry Potter movies, the tiny arachnid of just 2mm blends perfectly into dried leaves where it hides during the day.

Only the female of the species has been found so far, and scientists are still learning more about this mysterious critter.  

Scientists believe this giant centipede puts its swimming skills to good use by hunting for small aquatic creatures at night. Picture: Warut Siriwut.

6. Amphibious giant centipede

Skinny dipping at the waterfalls in Thailand or Laos at night, or even during the day, is probably a bad idea when there is the possibility of the Scolopendra Cataracta lurking in the waters. Officially named as a new species last year, this centipede is literally the stuff of nightmares, far surpassing its cousins.

Unlike other centipedes that can only swim by staying on the surface and keeping their head out of the water, this beast is a powerful swimmer that is able to dive as well.

The armour plating that the centipede is encased in is hydrophobic, allowing the centipede to dry quickly when it is back on land. The only reassuring thing is although the bite from the giant centipede is painful, it is usually not life-threatening.

There are several varieties of peanut worms but scientists have yet to determine the differences between this deep sea creature and its cousins that live in shallow waters. Picture: Museums Victoria.

7. Phallus-shaped worm

There are over 160 species of peanut worms recorded but Australian scientists believe this is a new subspecies that lives nearly 4000km in the abyss off the eastern Australian coast.

In fact, the recently discovered Sipunculus is so new that it has not even been named yet.

Little is known about this bizarre creature so far, but scientists believe that even though it is classified under the Sipunculus family, there would be some differences between it and the peanut worms that reside in shallow waters.