© Photo M. KuntnerThis photo shows a giant golden orb-web exceeding 1 meter in diameter: Nephila inaurata, Rodrigues, Indian Ocean.
Researchers from the United States and Slovenia have discovered a new, giant Nephila
species (golden orb weaver spider) from Africa and Madagascar and have published their findings in the Oct. 21 issue of the journal PLoS ONE
. Matjaž Kuntner, chair of the Institute of Biology of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts and a Smithsonian research associate, along with Jonathan Coddington, senior scientist and curator of arachnids and myriapods in the Department of Entomology at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, also reconstructed size evolution in the family Nephilidae
to show that this new species, on average, is the largest orb weaver known. Only the females are giants with a body length of 1.5 inches (3.8 centimeters) and a leg span of 4 - 5 inches (10 - 12 centimeters); the males are tiny by comparison. More than 41,000 spider species are known to science with about 400 - 500 new species added each year. But for some well-known groups, such as the giant golden orb weavers, the last valid described species dates back to the 19th century.Nephila
spiders are renowned for being the largest web-spinning spiders. They make the largest orb webs, which often exceed 3 feet (1 meter) in diameter. They are also model organisms for the study of extreme sexual size dimorphism and sexual biology.