Entertainment

Spider Naming Competition

More than 700 people have pitched for their chance to name a new species of jumping spider.

Arachnologist Robert Whyte discovered the spider while on a scientific expedition in Quinkan Countryon the Cape York Peninsula earlier this year.

“I knew it was a completely new species as soon as I saw it and I fell in love with it straight away because it was so cute,” he said.

“It has long orange hairs on the inside of its front legs and it looks so cuddly.”

Spider researcher Robert Whyte reading a book.

He said he was excited about the competition, but had some reservations about the outcome.

“I pray to the spider goddess Arachne for it not to be named Spidey McSpiderface,” he said.

But that name could be a possibility according to Jo Harding, who heads Bush Blitz — a national program aimed at documenting Australia’s biodiversity and identifying new species.

“There have been a few suggestions of Spidey McSpiderfaces, with my personal favourite reason being ‘because you know you want to’,” Ms Harding said.

So far, about 700 entries have been received, and Ms Harding said several themes were emerging.

“There are those who go for words that describe the different colours of the spider, those that have suggested famous red heads — both real people and fictitious characters — and those that have suggested famous athletes like high jumpers,” she said.

“Some suggestions have been focused on where the spider was found, and some people have even suggested it be named after the scientists who discovered it. But surprisingly very few entries have been people wanting to name it after themselves.”

A composite image of four different spiders.

The spider is just one of more than 75 new species collected by the 23-strong team of scientists, Indigenous rangers and traditional owners.

Dozens of new species of bugs and insects were also discovered.

Mr Whyte said Quinkan Country was a very special area.

“It’s one of the least explored regions in Australia and I think we were just scraping the surface,” he said.

He said waterfalls had created mini-rainforests in the region over time, and as the landscape had changed and dried out the tiny forest areas had formed into small land islands.

“As it’s gradually dried and become more woodland and grassland, it’s left these tiny little pockets and the number of new species there is astonishing,” he said.

The competition will close at midnight on December 22, then the public will be given a chance to vote on the finalists.

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