New spiders named after Neil Gaiman, Peter Gabriel, and others

A recent study from the scientific journal ZooKeys has re-examined and reclassified 33 different kinds of trapdoor spiders of the Ummidia species. As the paper's authors explain:

Taxonomic work on New World Ummidia has been sparse aside from these original descriptions, the most recent of which are over half a century old. Despite these shortcomings the genus has long captured the imaginations of spider taxonomists due to its putative remarkable diversity, recognized as potentially containing as many as 50 undescribed North American species.

Instead of spinning elaborate silk webs, these trapdoor spiders build little underground burrows to catch their prey — but because they spend so much time indoors, they've been hard to study and classify in close detail. The scientists ultimately identified 33 different types of Ummidia spiders, and they had some fun with naming them. There's the Ummidia neilgaimani, for example, which was discovered near the fictional location of the World Tree in Neil Gaiman's American Gods. Similarly, the Ummidia brandicarlileae was found near the location of singer Brandi Carlile's annual Girls Just Wanna Weekend Festival. The Ummidia gabrieli was named for Peter Gabriel, and it was found in Baja California Sur in Mexico, and I'm not sure what the connection was there. Another spider, the Ummidia bessiecolemanae, was named for the first Black and Native American woman to obtain a pilot's license, just to bring a little more awareness to a lesser-known historical figure.

As one of the lead scientists said in a press release, "Anything we can do to increase people's interest in the diversity around them is worthwhile and giving species names that people recognize but that still have relevant meaning is one way to do that."

Interestingly, Ummidia neilgaimani is actually the second spider named after the Anansi Boys author, following the translucent Selenyphantes gaimani that was identified in

.Trapdoor spiders named after Neil Gaiman, Peter Gabriel and Brandi Carlile among 33 new to science species [Pensoft]

Image: Ståle Grut / NRKbeta via Flickr (CC-BY-SA 2.0)