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GIANT TARANTULA

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The giant tarantula is as big as a basketball.

Its legs, which have unique daffodil-yellow markings, span a massive ten inches. The arachnid also has a distinctive pink band around its body.

The new species was found in the war-torn north of the South Asian country by scientists from Sri Lanka’s Biodiversity Education and Research (BER) organisation.

It has been named Poecilotheria rajaei, in recognition of a senior police officer called Michael Rajakumar Purajah who guided the research team through a hazardous jungle overrun by civil unrest in order to seek out the spider.

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The arachnid had originally been presented to BER three years ago by villagers in Mankulam who had killed a male specimen.

Scientists immediately realized the dead spider was not like anything they already knew and a group was charged with finding any living relatives.

The living Poecilotheria rajaei were eventually discovered in the former doctor’s quarters of the village’s hospital.

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According to wired.com, Ranil Nanayakkara, the co-founder of BER, said: “They are quite rare.

They prefer well-established old trees, but due to deforestation the number have dwindled and due to lack of suitable habitat they enter old buildings.”

The website described the tarantula as “colourful, fast and venomous”.

The species is said to be related to a class of South American tarantula that includes the Goliath bird-eater, one of the world’s largest spiders.

There, of course, was a North American tarantula that was spotted in Illinois in the 1950s.  Remember?

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