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Tech & Science

Meet Maratus sapphirus, a new species of spider in Australia

Canberra Times logoCanberra Times 13/09/2017 Han Nguyen
Maratus sapphirus was found in the Sapphire Coast of NSW. © Stuart Harris Maratus sapphirus was found in the Sapphire Coast of NSW.

Canberra's spider man, Stuart Harris has found himself in the middle of yet another new spider species discovery, this time on the NSW South Coast.

Mr Harris led a group on a BioBlitz expedition in the Murrah Flora Reserve late last year to teach a group who were interested in finding spiders. 

Citizen scientist, Helen Ranson who was part of the group was looking through a leaf litter when she spotted a spider.

"She said to me 'oh Stuart, what's this?' and I looked at it and was like 'oh no, that's a new species', I just knew straight away," Mr Harris said.

"We were all over the moon jumping around, you can imagine how they felt.

"They just went out for a day in the bush to maybe find some pretty spiders and then they found a new species."

Stuart Harris, Julie Morgan, Helen Ransom and Diane Deans while on the BioBlitz expedition. © Stuart Harris Stuart Harris, Julie Morgan, Helen Ransom and Diane Deans while on the BioBlitz expedition. The spider which on Wednesday was named Maratus sapphirus was sent to Dr Jurgen Otto, a peacock spider expert who confirmed Mr Harris' suspicions. 

Mr Harris said the name Maratus sapphirus came from his suggestion of sapphire. 

"Maratus which means peacock spider is the name that's given to any spider in that genus [type]," he said. 

"Because it was found on the Sapphire coast - the South Coast of NSW, I suggested the name be something to do with sapphire, also because of its colour."

Mr Harris said the chances of finding a new species as a citizen scientist was slim, saying the find was "significant" not only for the finders but to experts. 

In the last nine years, experts have seen a large increase in the number of Maratus species, with many resulting from discoveries by citizen scientists, photographers or other members of the public.

There are currently 63 species. 

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