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09/08/2012 - And then there was light! Discovery of the worlds first eyeless huntsman spider

Frankfurt, 09.08.2012. A scientist from the Senckenberg Research Institute in Frankfurt has discovered the first eyeless huntsman spider in the world. The accompanying study has been published by the scientific journal Zootaxa.

sinopodia  scurion
A very special cave dweller: the eyeless huntsman spider

With a leg span of only six centimetres and a body size of around twelve millimetres, the spider Sinopoda scurion is certainly not one of the largest representatives of the huntsman spiders, which include more than 1100 species. However, it is the first of its kind in the world without any eyes.

I found the spider in a cave in Laos, around 100 kilometres away from the famous Xe Bang Fai cave, reports Peter Jäger, head of the arachnology section at the Senckenberg Research Institute in Frankfurt. We already knew of spiders of this genus from other caves, but they always had eyes and complete pigmentation. Sinopoda scurion is the first huntsman spider without eyes.

sinopoda scurion
Front view of Sinopoda scurion – The spider’s
eyes are completely missing

The regression of the eyes is attributable to living permanently without daylight. This adaptation was also observed in other cave-dwelling spider species by the Frankfurt arachnologist. The Sinopoda species described demonstrate all kinds of transitions to cave adaptation from eight functioning eyes to forms with six, four and two lenses, right up to blind spiders, explains Jäger.
The spiders are in good company: fish, scorpions and crabs that have adapted to caves have already been found in the caves of Laos.

In total, the Frankfurt spider researchers have described nine new species of the genus Sinopoda. The fact that all of the species have been found in caves confirms the animals preference for underground habitats. Because of the small-scale area in which the spider species can be found it is possible to study their adjustment to the cave as a dwelling the number of eyes present and the visual faculty may possibly shed light on the time of settlement. Furthermore, the spiders can be used as indicators for the threat to their habitats. These are often endangered by tourism or the exploitation of the limestone rocks to make cement, says Jäger.

The eyeless huntsman spider was named after the Swiss company Scurion that makes headlamps for caves (www.scurion.ch). Sinopoda scurion is the first species that I have named after a company in the context of the Patrons for Biodiversity programme, explains Jäger. The headlamps by Scurion help me to illuminate the darkest corners on my cave trips, and thus recognise hazards such as poisonous snakes and scorpions, but also discover very small organisms.

With a one-off donation to the charity BIOPAT it is possible to immortalise a name of ones choice, by having a newly discovered animal or plant species named (www.biopat.de).

In gratitude for the naming, the company donated four sets of the high-quality lamps for use in the caves of Laos. In accordance with the guidelines of the BIOPAT programme, two of the sets will be given to the Laotian colleagues which ensures that the spiders will continue to be placed in the spotlight in the future!

Dr. Peter Jäger
Senckenberg Forschungsinstitut
Sektion Arachnologie
Tel. 069 7542 1340,


Press Office
Senckenberg Gesellschaft für Naturforschung
Judith Jördens
Tel. 069- 7542 1434

JÄGER, P. (2012) Revision of the genus Sinopoda Jäger 1999 in Laos with discovery of the first eyeless huntsman spider species (Sparassidae: Heteropodinae). Zootaxa 3415: 3757 (2012)  http://www.mapress.com/zootaxa/2012/f/zt03415p057.pdf

The press release and image material can also be found at www.senckenberg.de/presse

The research of life forms in their diversity and their ecosystems, climate research and geology, the search for past life and finally the understanding of the entire earth/life system that is what the SENCKENBERG Gesellschaft für Naturforschung works towards. Exhibitions and museums are the windows to natural history research, by which means the Senckenberg shares the latest scientific knowledge with the public and provides an insight into past ages and the diversity of nature. More information is available at www.senckenberg.de.


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