What has 24 legs and lives in the Australian Alps?

By Cassandra Morgan/AAP 17 February 2023
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An 11-day expedition through Australia’s alpine region has so far uncovered three new spider species, including a warrior huntsman with a shield on its chest.

The 11-day Australian Alps Bush Blitz expedition to discover new species has also revealed a three-millimetre jumping spider that “looks like a licorice all-sort”, along with a wraparound spider that impersonates a tree branch.

Museums Victoria Research Institute arachnologist Joseph Schubert discovered the new spiders, and hoped to uncover more species before the expedition ends.

“Most people associate spiders with the outback dunny door, but spiders are hugely diverse,” he said.
“From the infamous shield huntsman with war paint on his legs and a shield on his chest to frighten off predators, to the tiny jumping spiders that look like eight-eyed puppies.”

Joseph said spiders were also experts at camouflage. 

“The wraparound spider is a ferocious nocturnal mini-hunter that impersonates a tree branch during the day to hide from predators,” he said.

There are 15 scientists on the expedition, including botanists and zoologists from the Australian Museum, Parks Australia’s National Seed Bank, the Museums Victoria Research Institute, the National Herbarium of NSW and Victoria, and the University of New South Wales. Alongside them are five science teachers working as field assistants. The teachers are able to connect with classrooms in real time while on the expedition. 

Related: Australian huntsman spiders: your friendly neighbourhood insect control