New Spider Discovered in a Cave in Indiana

New Spider Discovered in a Cave in Indiana

It seems like most of the new and interested insect and spider species that have ben discovered in the last few years have all come from either the rainforest in South America or Australia. You’d think we already covered everything here in the U.S., but finally a new species of spider was discovered in a cave in Indiana of all places. I guess we just haven’t been looking in the right places. We are used to spiders inhabiting our forests, homes, fields, and backyards. They are plentiful in the environment around us. But, maybe we hadn’t discovered this new species yet because it doesn’t live in any of these places. This new spider species can only be found in one cave in the world, which happens to be in our own country, the Stygeon River Cave, in southern Indiana.

Dr. Marc Milne, an assistant professor at the University of Indiana, and University of Indiana alum Elizabeth Wells released their findings in the journal Subterranean Biology. The spiders in question are called sheet weavers, dwarf spiders, or money spiders. They are particularly elusive due to their minute size, reaching only a few centimeters in length. The webs of sheet weavers are flat and look a bit like a sheet, hence their name sheet weaver. The newest species to belong to this genus has been named Islandiana lewisi, in honor of the fellow scientist, Dr. Julian Lewis, who first showed Milne the tiny spiders on one of their expeditions into the cave. The new species is only the 15th species in this genus, with 30 years having passed since the last one was discovered, and also happens to be only the 5th species that only lives in these caves.

This new species is only 2 mm in size and harmless to humans. The spiders are able to live in very hostile conditions, as the cave floods every so often, and so the entire inside is very wet and muddy, making it very slippery for us humans especially. Milne can’t say exactly why he thought the spider might be special when he first found it, claiming "I didn't know what the spider was at first, I just thought it was odd that so many were living within this dark cave with no other spider species around."

Do you think there are more new species of spiders hidden in the U.S.? Where would you go to look for them?

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