Spiders with long ‘nose’ named after Nafi Thiam and Greta Thunberg

Spiders with long ‘nose’ named after Nafi Thiam and Greta Thunberg
Spiders with long ‘nose’ named after Nafi Thiam and Greta Thunberg


The ‘nose’ of a male Rhinocosmetus. — © Vanuytven et al

Name an animal with eight legs after a heptathlon athlete? Must be possible, thought the discoverers of some Southeast Asian spiders.

In the Southeast Asian rainforests of Borneo (Indonesia, Malaysia) and Papua New Guinea, scientists have discovered spiderlings that they named after athlete Nafi Thiam and climate activist Greta Thunberg. Officially they are called Rhinoliparus nafithiamae and Rhinocosmetus gretathunbergae.

In top view.

In top view. — © Vanuytven et al

These are small ball spiders of a few millimeters in size, of which eighteen new species were found. Three spider experts, two Belgians and one Dutch, have described the observations in the journal of the Belgian arachnological association Arabel. This makes the discovery, just like the naming, official.

The spiders had a striking physical feature: the males appeared to have a lump of a nose-like organ under their eyes, on the front of the cephalothorax.


The bulge has hairs that look like seedlings. This discovery in particular is considered a first in the world. “It is very likely that the body part plays a role in courtship,” says Rudy Jocqué, spider specialist at the AfricaMuseum in Tervuren and one of the authors of the article in Arabel. Perhaps the males use this instrument to spread the substances that attract the females. So it is not an organ of smell.

A female Rhinoliparus nafithiamae: strikingly long legs.

A female Rhinoliparus nafithiamae: strikingly long legs. — © Vanuytven et al

The newly discovered spiders were given appropriate names. Twelve of them have the first part of the name Rhinocosmetus, which means ‘decorated nose’. The nose is shorter in six species and was first given the name Rhinoliparus.

The animals live in the treetops in the forest. These are so-called kleptoparasites: they use the web of other spiders.

The observers gave two of them the names of the two famous women. “Not because of any similarity to their sense of smell, but simply out of admiration for these women,” says Jocqué.

The article is in Dutch


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