Meet the creepy crawly prince of darkness: Dozens of new Aussie spiders found

Melissa Buttigieg
News Reporter

A spider named after the prince of darkness for the way it stalks its prey has recently been discovered along with 36 other new species in an Australian biological survey.

The spectacular creature was found in a weekend-long BioBlitz field study in Cooloola Coast national park on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast recently, when groups of scientists joined volunteer bug enthusiasts to scour the rainforest.

Baalzebub got its name because of the way it quickly pounces on flies trapped in its web, spider expert Robert Whyte told Yahoo7.

Baalzebub was named after the prince of darkness for the way it stalks its prey. Source: Robert Whyte

“These things have a tensioned web, so when things land on it, it springs on them,” he said.

Scientists have also described the newly identified species as the “Lord of the Flies” – another way of describing the prince of darkness, so the spider was bound to get the beast’s moniker of Baalzebub.

Don’t be fooled by its size – despite the critter only having a body length of just 1.14mm, it packs a deadly bite for its prey. The venom, however, is not dangerous to humans.

Mr Whyte said it was a child who found Baalzebub and admitted: “Kids are the best [at making ecological discoveries] because they have such great eye sight”.

The author of A Field Guide to Spiders of Australia, was also amazed by a “really obscure” bright green tropical crab spider also found the same weekend, which has a leg structure enabling the 5mm insect to walk sideways like a crab.

The tropical bright green crab spider’s unique leg structure allows it to walk sideways like a crab. Source: Robert Whyte

Entomologists only know about a third to a quarter of the Australian spider species in existence, and many others will be extinct before they have a chance to be identified, he said.

There are more unknown species than those which scientists know about, so they are relying on everyday “citizen scientists” to help with their research.

This jumping spider was one of 37 new species discovered in BioBlitz biological survey at Queensland’s Sunshine Coast recently. Source: Robert Whyte

“Now people are starting to realise there are some animal species you can’t get a guide book for.”

He encouraged potential “citizen scientists” to download and play the free Questagame mobile app, which is built like game platform but enables the user to discover, photograph map creatures they come across.

Sightings recorded through the app contribute to real research and conservation, with the information and GPS location sent to a national scientific database to help with its research.

“Quite a few new species have turned up from that app,” Mr Whyte said.

“[Humans] may find solutions to some real environmental issues facing us by looking at spiders by the way they survive and adapt to their environment.”

An ornodolomedes species was another one of the new critters identified in the intensive field study. Source: Robert Whyte