A close-up view of the newly described tarantula species Ceratogyrus attonitifer, showing the bizarre horn-like protuberance sticking out of its back. (Photo Credit: Ian Enelbrecht)

In case you didn’t think spiders were scary or weird enough, a new-to-science species of tarantula discovered by scientists in Angola sports a bizarre “horn” sticking out of its back.

The new spider — Ceratogyrus attonitifer  – actually belongs to a group known as horned baboon spiders, but the strange protuberance is not present in all of these species. The horn structure in the horned baboon spider is hardened, whereas the new Angolan specimens demonstrate a soft and more elongated horn.

The exact function of the peculiar horn, however, is still not clear to the researchers, who were in Angola as part of the National Geographic Okavango Wilderness Project, which aims to uncover the biodiversity in the entire Okavango region of Angola, Namibia, and Botswana.

The tarantula species Ceratogyrus attonitifer, showing the peculiar soft and elongated horn-like protuberance sticking out of its back. (Photo Credit: Ian Enelbrecht)

The new arachnid is described in a paper published in the open-access journal African Invertebrates by authors John Midgley and Ian Engelbrecht.

The spider’s name, C. attonitifer, is derived from the Latin root attonit- (“astonishment” or “fascination”), and the suffix -fer (“bearer of” or “carrier”), and reflects the astonishment of the researchers upon the discovery of the remarkable species and its extraordinary horn.

“No other spider in the world possesses a similar foveal protuberance,” said the authors.

The indigenous people in the region actually provided additional information about the biology and lifestyle of the baboon spider. While unknown to the experts until very recently, the arachnid has long been going by the name “chandachuly” among the local tribes. Thanks to their reports, the researchers were able to determine that the tarantula tends to prey on insects and the females can be seen enlarging already existing burrows rather than digging their own.

An individual of the newly described Ceratogyrus attonitifer species in defensive posture in its natural habitat. (Photo Credit: Kostadine Luchansky)

The venom of the newly described species is also said to not be dangerous to humans, even though there have been some fatalities caused by infected bites gone untreated due to poor medical access.

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The researchers are hoping the discovery of the new tarantula serves as further evidence of the hugely unreported endemic fauna of Angola, and highlights the importance of exploring “biodiversity frontiers.”

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