If you're afraid of spiders, there may be no worse place to encounter one than in the dark, slimy confines of the limestone caves of Southeast China. But that's where several Chinese scientists recently discovered five new spider species.
The study was published recently in the open access journal ZooKeys.
All of the newly discovered cave-dwelling species belong to a broader family of armored spiders, or the Tetrablemmidae family, distinguished by their layered abdominal patterns, which resembles body armor.
The spiders were discovered by a group of researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Led by Shuqiang Li, a zoology professor at the academy, the researchers have ventured into more than 2,000 caves. And in the last decade, Li and his colleagues have collected more than 2,000 new species of spiders. They're batting a thousand, as they say.
The bio-rich caves where Li found the spiders are part of the South China Karst, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that spans Guangxi, Guizhou, and Yunnan provinces. According to UNESCO, the South China Karst is "unrivaled in terms of the diversity of its karst features and landscapes."
Last year, the same researchers announced a two other new species of cave spiders, the Trogloneta yuensis and Mysmena wawuensis -- both incredibly small.
"The spiders live in moist leaf litter and the obscure places such as moss and even caves and they prefer very humid habitats," the researcher said in a statement last May. "Being extremely minute, up to 2 millimeters in total and having cryptic lifestyle these creatures become rather hard to find."
Like the newly discovered species, these mini spiders also had "oversized rumps." The previous findings were detailed in ZooKeys, as well.
[Chinese Academy of Sciences] [ZooKeys]