A member of a new species of whip spider munches on a cricket in an Indonesian cave in an undated picture.
Found in 2004, the half-inch-long (centimeter-long) Sarax yayukae is one of four new whip spider species announced this month. All four were discovered during a series of expeditions in the Indonesian section of the island of Borneo (map), which also includes sections administered by Brunei and Malaysia.
These arachnids, also called tailless whip scorpions, are neither spiders nor scorpions and feature front legs that have evolved into long, flexible whiplike feelers. The "bizarre" creatures also have flat bodies and grasping appendages lined with spines, according to the study documenting the new species.
Though whip spiders have been crawling the world's tropics since the Devonian period, about 416 million years ago, relatively few whip spider species survive today, according to study leader Cahyo Rahmadi, a biologist at the Indonesian Institute of Sciences in Jakarta.
The surviving whip spiders—many found only in small cave systems—may be threatened by plans for coal and limestone mining on Borneo, Rahmadi said by email. (See cave-exploration pictures.)
New whip spider study published September 15 in the journal Zootaxa.