Over the past three years, Platnick and colleagues have named or redefined the taxonomy of hundreds of new species of goblin spidersan often overlooked group named for their unusual appearance and secretive habits. Goblin spiders (members of the family Oonopidae) are extremely small: the largest is 3 millimeters in size, and most are under 2 millimeters.
"Goblins are probably the most poorly known group of spiders," says Platnick. "Their small size has made them difficult to study, but scanning electron microscopy and recent advances in digital imaging are allowing us to examine their structures in much more detail than was previously possible."
A recently published Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History unravels the previous taxonomy of the genus Stenoonops, a group of spineless goblin spiders that have a soft abdomen and muddy-orange carapace. Fourteen of the 19 species moved to new genera (in fact, six different genera). But because 17 new species from the Caribbean were described as Stenoonops, the genus increased in numbers and now has 23 species. Two other genera are given new species as well: Longoonops and Australoonops gain five species combined.
"It isn't surprising that there are so many undescribed goblin spiders," says Platnick. "When we began the global inventory of the Oonopidae, there were only about 500 species known, a number we thought represented about 20 percent of the actual biodiversity in this group. There are a lot of species that have small rangesthe perfect group for giving us hints about the biogeographic histories of the areas they occupy, as well as for conservation, by showing us what areas are most in need of
|Contact: Kristin Elise Phillips|
American Museum of Natural History