New Delhi: Seven new species of spiders discovered by scientists from Instituto Butantan, Sao Paulo in Brazil have been named after characters from literary classics like Harry Potter and the Game of Thrones.
The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion, HP Lovecraft’s The Call of Cthulhu and the children’s favourite Charlotte’s Web and Little Miss Spider also inspired the names of small cave-dwelling six-eyed spiders inhabiting northern Brazil.
The new species – named Lord Varys from GoT and Aragog from Harry Potter among others – all belong to the same Neotropical genus Ochyrocera.
While all seven previously unknown species prefer staying in the shadows underground, none of them has the adaptations characteristic for exclusively cave-dwelling organisms, such as loss of pigmentation and reduced or missing eyes.
They are classified as edaphic troglophile species, which means that they are capable of completing their life cycle away from sunlight, but are not bound to the deepest recesses.
Often crawling near the surface, they can even be spotted outside the caves. To describe the species, the scientists collected about 2,000 adult specimens following a 5-year series of field collection trips.
The list of ‘fantasy’ spiders begins with Ochyrocera varys named after Lord Varys from George RR Martin’s book series A Song of Ice and Fire, which inspired the popular TV series Game of Thrones.
Lord Varys is also known as the Spider because of his manipulative skills and ability to ‘weave’ and command his networks of eyes-and-ears across two continents.
Two species are named after spider characters from the classic works by J R R Tolkien.
Ochyrocera laracna is a species named after the well- known giant spider Laracna (Shelob in English) who attacks main characters Frodo and Sam on their way to Mordor in The Lord of the Rings’ second volume – The Two Towers.
On the other hand, the Brazilian spider’s sibling – Ochyrocera ungoliant – is linked to Laracna’s mother.
Ungoliant appears in Tolkien’s book The Silmarillion, whose events take place prior to those of The Lord of the Rings’ second volume The Two Towers. According to the story, Ungoliant translates to Dark Spider in Elvish.
Another staple in the 20th-century fantasy literature, the Harry Potter series, written by J K Rowling, enjoys the attention of the researchers.
The species Ochyrocera aragogue is an explicit reference to the talking Aragog, who lives in the dark recesses of the Forbidden Forest.
In the second volume of the series, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, he confronts Harry Potter and Ron Weasley.
The name of Ochyrocera atlachnacha refers to the Spider God Atlach-Nacha from the universe created by H P Lovecraft. Atlach-Nacha is a giant spider with a human-like face which lives in the caves beneath a mountain and spins a web believed to link the world with the Dreamlands.
The authors do not fail to pay tribute to much less violent spiders known from popular children books. David Kirk’s Little Miss Spider inspires the name of Ochyrocera misspider.
The Ochyrocera charlotte species refers to Charlotte, the spider from E B White’s classic Charlotte’s Web who befriends the main character – Wilbur the pig.
This is not the first time species from the animal kingdom have been named after popular people or characters.
Previously, a trapdoor spider, a speckled freshwater darter, a parasitic hairworm, an extinct lizard and a coral-reef fish were named after former US President Barack Obama, a newly discovered species of ‘smiley-faced’ spiders were named after David Attenborough, Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Bernie Sanders and a new moth species got named after present POTUS Donald Trump.