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Scientists discover spider wearing ‘Joker’ make-up


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Anewfound spider species wears a striking red-and-white pattern on its back that resembles the grin worn by Batman’s long-standing nemesis, Joker. The resemblanc­e is so uncanny that the researcher­s who described the arachnid named the species after actor Joaquin Phoenix, who portrayed the tormented, smiling villain in the 2019 film Joker.

Ironically, the colourful spider belongs to a genus that was named for the late punk rock icon Lou Reed, who famously wore black and rarely smiled. Scientists discovered Loureedia phoenixi in Iran, making it the first Loureedia spider to be identified outside the Mediterran­ean region.

The genus, first described in 2018, now includes four species.

On the backs of the male L. phoenixi spiders, a splash of vivid red stands out against a background of white, much like the Joker’s unnerving smile contrasts with his white facial make-up. However, you’d need magnificat­ion to see it clearly, as the spider’s body measures only about eight millimetre­s long.

Mindy Weisberger

Discoverin­g Loureedia spiders is challengin­g because the arachnids are active above ground only for a three-week period each year. “These spiders spend most of their lives in their subterrane­an nests,” Iranian arachnolog­ist and taxonomist Alireza Zamani said. Males leave their burrows to hunt for females “usually from late October to mid-november,” and spiderling­s come to the surface when they leave their mother’s nest, he explained.

So far scientists have collected and described only male L. phoenixi spiders. However, the search will continue for the elusive females, targeting locations where males have been found. “Ideally, if you have enough time and patience, it would be interestin­g to track a wandering male. He should know how to find the female better than anyone else,” Zamani said. “This way you would also have the chance of observing and photograph­ing the actual mating behaviour, which has not been documented for any Loureedia species yet,” he added.

 ??  ?? This is the fourth species to be described in the genus Loureedia, which was named for the musician Lou Reed
This is the fourth species to be described in the genus Loureedia, which was named for the musician Lou Reed

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