Blog about animals
Selected the best cow in Germany
Fishing ban proposed near Rockall after rare scientific finds
Life and death on the riverbank
Baboon shot dead after escaping from Knowsley Safari Park
Birdwatch: Peregrine falcon
Iceland's fin whales are endangered. Stop this bloody cull
The pitfalls of elderly dog insurance
Valley where Edward Carpenter, gay rights campaigner and socialist, walked
Green groups warn government of national parks hunting backlash
Demand for ivory destabilising central Africa
Dog walker found neighbour trampled by cows, inquest hears
Cat stands for election in Mexican city
I hear some hip cat's running for mayor in Mexico. That gives me an idea
Wader chick fever grips birds and spotters alike
Philippines destroys five tonnes of elephant tusks
The Dwyfor is surely one of the loveliest of Welsh rivers
New to nature No 107: Typhochlaena costae
How to beat the midges this summer
Controversial herring gull cull gets green light
Whaling's day in court is a sea change for conservation
Australia censures Japan for 'scientific' whaling
The young red deer stags were on their hind legs boxing, just like hares
Our garden's blackbirds started their nest-building early this year
UK wildlife and nature hit hard by erratic weather
  New to nature No 107: Typhochlaena costae
There is a story, perhaps apocryphal, that Harvard professor and mycologist Roland Thaxter once gave a public lecture on the Laboulbeniales, an enigmatic group of fungi that grow on the integument of insects. A woman in the audience is said to have asked: "Professor Thaxter, this is all interesting, but of what value is it to mankind?" to which Thaxter replied: "None, thank God!"

Much species exploration is undertaken out of pure curiosity about the living world, so it is easy to understand why progress in some obscure taxa has been slow. Other groups, however, are so significant that neglect of their taxonomy is inexplicable. Theraphosidae is one such taxon.

The theraphosids include about one-third of the 2,693 documented species of mygalomorphs tarantulas and funnel web spiders. In the intricate sub-webs of invertebrate animals in many terrestrial ecosystems these are "top" predators, making them of special interest to ecology. They have been used as model organisms in such diverse studies as molecular biology, biochemistry, pharmacology, ethology and biogeography, and they have a large and devoted following in the international pet trade. Yet their taxonomy, natural history and phylogeny remain incompletely studied.

Professor Rogério Bertani, of the Instituto Butantan, São Paulo, recently revised three theraphosid genera, improving our knowledge of their species diversity, phylogeny, and geographic and natural histories, and describing nine species as new. Although there were more interesting natural history stories attached to some of his other new species, I could not get past the sheer beauty of one, Typhochlaena costae. Its spectacular colouration, long golden setae (hairs) over the chelicerae (jaws), carapace and abdomen are chelicerae-dropping gorgeous.

These same setae differentiate T costae from all other species of its genus. In addition, in both males and females, the dorsum of the abdomen is black with two rows of four red spots. The species is known from the Brazilian states of Tocantins, Maranhão and Piauí. Almost nothing is known of its natural history.

What T costae lacks in details of its biology, it makes up for in its contribution to the evolutionary history of its genus. At the base of the Typhochlaena family tree is a tritomy, an unresolved three-way split, one branch of which is T costae by itself. Interestingly, for all three genera in the study, species are highly endemic and there are no documented overlaps of the ranges of species belonging to the same genus. Where species of the other two genera, Iridopelma and Pachistopelma, occur together geographically there appears to be a distinct ecological separation, with species of the latter strictly associated with bromeliads and those of the former, with one possible exception, associated with trees, under loose bark or on the trunk or leaves of palm trees.
'Wild' animals in travelling circuses benefit no one
The intoxicated world of the spotted flycatcher
Fishing quotas can be redistributed to favour smaller vessels high court
Madagascar battling worst locust plague since 1950s
A broody sparrow meets his match
Climate change is happening too quickly for species to adapt
The weird and wonderful world of the naked mole rat
Australian woman seriously injured during Spanish bull run
Spain's endangered Iberian lynx brought back from brink of extinction
One man and his sniffer dog help tackle Germany's hidden drug problem
The hotel that only takes dogs
T rex tooth found embedded in prey, restoring dinosaur's reputation
Bog cotton covers the summer Peak District moors in snow
Lifelike after death: the intricacies of a taxidermist's craft
The six-spot burnet moths complete their transformation
Research on animals in UK rises by 8% to exceed 4m procedures
Animal testing it's time to talk about it again
A pair of lithe animals are tumbling across the grass within feet of me
New to nature no 109: Anochetus hohenbergiae
England's ceremonial mayors eschew fur to support animal rights
Birdwatch: Corn bunting
Madrid declares war on plague of raccoon and parrot invaders
Snow leopards and wild yaks becoming 'fashion victims'
Horn seizure prompts rhinos warning
Threatened seabirds 'neglected' in plans for Scottish marine protected areas
Los Angeles campgrounds closed after plague-infected squirrel found
Only when I look down at the last second do I see it. I recoil instinctively
China's wine boom of little profit to giant pandas and small farmers
Let's not martyr the white-throated needletail to the anti-wind cause
Grasshopper breeder up for design award and educating western palates
Spanish national park could lose Unesco status over illegal boreholes
Dog mauls boy at primary school in Northern Ireland
Our dog walks are punctuated by the corn bunting's jingling ringtone
End in sight for painful branding of semi-wild moorland ponies
New to nature No 108: Carlia decora
Penguins support gorillas as biscuit makers respond to palm oil threat
Measuring carbon age in ivory could help combat poaching, study shows
How to survive a seagull attack
A walk by the river triggers memories of a bygone age
Whales flee from military sonar leading to mass strandings, research shows
Down among the grass stems, a ball of recently hatched orb-web spiderlings
Owen Paterson vows to rid England of bovine TB with badger culls
Gassing of badgers considered in plan to eradicate TB in cattle
Visitors to the Pamplona bull run have blood on their hands
Bats: they've never had it so good
These dew ponds have been on the Downs possibly since medieval times
Australian bushman claims to have footage of legendary night parrot
Secret badger shoots pose 'a risk to public safety'
Cheshire police seize dog believed to have killed Pomeranian
Whale watching season is back - but how close is too close?
Plan to ban wild animals in travelling circuses 'goes too far'
Morrissey donates Channel 4 payout to Peta campaign against foie gras
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