‘Cryptic’ 8-legged critter — carrying 40 eggs — found in Ecuador. It’s a new species

An eight-legged creature scurried through the forest alongside a road connecting two towns in Ecuador. She was carrying some extra weight, thanks to the 40 small eggs nestled in her egg sac.

Despite her “cryptic” lifestyle, the arachnid couldn’t escape once she was spotted by researchers, who determined she was part of a new species, according to a study published Nov. 28 in the European Journal of Taxonomy.

Researchers were exploring the Province of Azuay searching for cellar spiders, the study said. They were on a road connecting Guayaquil and Cuenca when they found the egg-bearing critter, as well as several others belonging to the same species.

Known as Priscula espejoi, the new species is a type of cellar spider known for its tendency to live “in sheltered spaces.” Scientists said Priscula are “usually difficult to find, at least during the day.”

One of the specimens had about 40 eggs in her egg sac, researchers said.
One of the specimens had about 40 eggs in her egg sac, researchers said.

The new species leads a similar lifestyle, and most specimens were found “deep in sheltered spaces in the ground,” according to the study. While some of the critters were found in the forest at the roadside, one male was found in a tunnel under the road and others were discovered in a “ravine with forest remnant near (the) road.”

While the specimens were collected from two neighboring locations approximately 3 miles apart, they were found at varying elevations, researchers said.

Scientists described the creatures as a “pale ochre-yellow” and said the spiders have brown marks and bands on their bodies. The arachnids’ eye area is “dark brown,” and their sternum is brown with “lighter marks.”

Their legs are also “ochre-yellow” and they are covered with “dark rings,” researchers said. The spiders abdomens are gray but have black and white marks.

The male specimen collected from the tunnel had a body length of approximately 0.2 inches, but his first leg measured much longer, about 1.62 inches, according to the study. One female’s egg sacs, carrying approximately 40 eggs, measured about 0.17 inches in diameter.

Researchers said they think Priscula species could possibly be nocturnal, given their dark coloring and the difficulty of spotting the creatures during the day.

The new species was named after Francisco Javier Eugenio de Santa Cruz y Espejo, who was a scientist and writer in colonial Ecuador until his death in 1795, the study said.

The Province of Azuay is in western Ecuador.

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