Deep in a mangrove forest in Thailand, a tiny, bright blue critter was nestled inside its self-spun web in the hollow of a tree.
Scientists were studying tarantulas in the Phang-Nga province when they came across the colorful creature — and realized it was a new species.
The new tarantulas are known as Chilobrachys natanicharum, according to a study published Sept. 18 in ZooKeys. They’re distinguished by their rare blue-violet color that resembles “electrical sparks.”
Male specimens collected by researchers ranged in size from about 1.51 inches to 2.19 inches long while the female specimens collected were about 2.24 inches and 2.66 inches, the study said.
The creatures have dark gray legs, scientists said. The upper portions of their legs are covered with dark hair while the lower portions are violet and metallic-blue. Their abdomens and spinnerets are dark brown.
Male C. natanichiarum have black carapaces — the upper portions of their bodies — while females have metallic-blue and violet hairs interspersed across their carapaces, according to researchers. Female and juvenile male tarantulas appear to have more violet than blue hairs on various body parts.
Tarantulas have unique patches of bristle-like hairs that create stridulation organs, researchers said. When the creatures rub these organs against surfaces, a noise is produced that is used to communicate with other tarantulas. This usually occurs during mating or territory displays, according to the study.
Scientists said the Chilobrachys genus in particular has unique thorn-like setaes (bristles) known as “strikers” comprising their stridulating organ.
The species was previously known to experts from the commercial tarantula trade market as “Chilobrachys sp. Electric Blue Tarantula,” according to the study. This is the first time the species has been identified in its natural habitat.
Researchers said the tarantulas are likely distributed throughout the southern part of Thailand, particularly in mangrove forests where the creatures can live inside tree hollows.
The species was named by a company in Thailand that won a naming auction campaign. It is named after two company executives, Natakorn Changrew and Nichada Changrew, scientists said.
The Phang-Nga province is on the southwestern coast of Thailand.