Arachnophobes beware: an enormous, previously unknown species of spider as big as a human’s face and described as “fast and venomous” has been discovered in Asia.
Giant tarantulas with legs that span eight inches have been found in a remote village in Sri Lanka.
The spiders, which also have unusual yellow markings on their legs and a pink band around their bodies, were found living in the old doctor’s quarters of a hospital in the war-torn northern Sri Lankan province of Mankulam by scientists from Sri Lanka’s Biodiversity Education and Research organization.
The spiders belong to the genus Poecilotheria, an arboreal group indigenous to India and Sri Lanka that are known for being colorful, fast and venomous, according to the website wired.co.uk.
“As a group, the spiders are related to a class of South American tarantula that includes the Goliath bird-eater, the world’s largest,” it added.
The giant arachnids have been named Poecilotheria rajaei, in honor of Michael Rajakumar Purajah, a senior police official who led the research team through a hazardous stretch of jungle ravaged by civil unrest, according to The Telegraph.
The spider had originally been presented to Biodiversity Education and Research members three years ago by villagers in Mankulam who had killed a male specimen.
Scientists immediately realized the dead spider was different from known varieties and a group was charged with finding similar arachnids, according to Sky News.
Biodiversity Education and Research co-founder Ranil Nanayakkara said the tarantula species is quite rare.
“They prefer well-established old trees, but due to deforestation the number have dwindled and due to lack of suitable habitat they enter old buildings,” he told wired.co.uk.
In other reports Nanayakkara is quoted as saying none of the tarantulas found in Sri Lanka have bites that are deadly to humans. However, the Poecilotheria rajaei would be able to kill animals as large as mice, lizards and small birds and snakes.
Peter Kirk, who covered the discovery for the British Tarantula Society’s journal, told Sky News: “Ranil has been working on these spiders since 2009 out in Sri Lanka and this is the first of what is thought to be a number of new species he has discovered in what was previously the inaccessible northern region of the island.”