New genus of spiders named after David Bowie

Bowie rebellious – one of the species recently described by Peter Jäger. Credit: Senckenberg/Jäger

Senckenberg arachnologist Dr. Peter Jäger named a new genus from the wandering spider family in honor of the late pop musician David Bowie – on the occasion of the music legend’s 75th birthday. Within the genus Bowie gene. Nov. Coming from Asia, he described 54 new species of spiders and named them after Bowie’s musical work. By naming the spiders after a celebrity, the spider researcher from Frankfurt wants to draw attention to the still largely untapped diversity and the need to protect the eight-legged creatures. The study is published today in the journal zoo taxa.

The family of wandering spiders (Ctenidae) includes both smaller representatives with a body length of only two millimeters and relatively large spiders up to five centimeters in length, all of which are mainly found in the tropics. Wandering spiders are nocturnal, nomadic, and hunt freely without a web. The most prominent representative of this family is probably the ‘Brazilian Wandering Spider’, one of the few spiders whose bite can also be life-threatening to humans.

“In researching species of predominantly Asian lineage in this family, I quickly realized that they could not be assigned to a pre-existing genus,” explains arachnologist Peter Jäger of the Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum in Frankfurt, and he continues, “I therefore dedicated this new genre to David Bowie and just called it Bowie!”

It’s not the first time Jäger has given his eight-legged new discoveries a prominent name: he has honored the likes of Greta Thunberg, Nina Hagen, Boyan Slat and Malala Yousafzai as namesakes. By naming the hunter spider species Heteropoda davidbowie, the Frankfurt spider researcher already declared himself a fan of the British musician who died in 2016. So why dedicate an entire genus of spiders to David Bowie now? “On the occasion of Bowie’s 75th birthday, I wanted to commemorate this incomparable artist who left us way too soon, but the most important thing for me here is the idea of ​​conservation: we only protect what we know – and an attractive name is much more likely to be remembered” , explains Jäger.

Ziggy Stardust and the 54 Spiders: New Spider Genre Named After David Bowie

Bowie neukoeln, from Malaysia. Credit: Senckenberg/Jäger

With the newly described 54 species of Bowie gene. Nov. is the second largest genus in the family of wandering spiders. Species are found from Nepal and southern India, through much of South and Southeast Asia, to Papua New Guinea. An undescribed species is also known from northern Australia. Members of the new genus live in the leaf litter of forests and most species have a narrow range, usually within a radius of 100 kilometers. “Especially these endemic species that are restricted to a very specific area should be considered potentially threatened – even small changes in their habitat can lead to extinction,” Jäger added.

The newly described species bear names like Bowie ziggystardust, Bowie majortom or Bowie heroes, referring to the musician’s hits or characters. In the northwestern part of the range, the older Bowie numbers inspired the naming; in the central areas names like Bowie teenagewildlife or Bowie chinagirl can be found, while in the southeast in New Guinea Bowie’s latest body of work is commemorated with Bowie lazarus and Bowie blackstar. “We assume that there are still some undiscovered species in this genus. Those who – like Bowie – want to be immortalized and mentioned along with ‘his’ spiders can achieve this by making a donation under the BIOPAT sponsorship program. The money raised by the program is used to research animal and plant species in their natural habitats in close collaboration with local scientists. In addition, we support local experts in their efforts to protect the endangered habitats of the species, increasing the diversity of our planet is preserved,” concludes Jäger.

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More information:
PETER JAGER, Bowie Gen. nov., a diverse lineage of ground-dwelling spiders found from the Himalayas to Papua New Guinea and northern Australia (Araneae: Ctenidae: Cteninae), zoo taxa (2022). DOI: 10.11646/zootaxa.5170.1.1

Provided by Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum

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