Scientists put literary spin on names for seven newly-discovered spider species

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Famous spider characters from the Harry Potter series, Charlotte’s Web and other fantasy novels and literary classics have been immortalised in science after researchers named seven new spider species after them.

Aragog, a giant spider from JK Rowling’s Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets, and Charlotte, from EB White’s classic Charlotte’s Web, are some of the fictional spiders who now share their names with real arachnids.

All the new species, discovered in iron caves across the state of Para in northern Brazil, belong to the genus Ochyrocera.

The species Ochyrocera misspider gets its name from Little Miss Spider.
The species Ochyrocera misspider gets its name from Little Miss Spider (Igor Cizauskas/Instituto Butantan)

Ochyrocera aragogue is an explicit reference to the talking Aragog, while the Ochyrocera charlotte species refers to Charlotte, the barn spider who befriends the main character Wilbur the pig, the researchers said.

The team, from Instituto Butantan in Sao Paulo, also paid tribute to Lord Varys, a sinister character from George RR Martin’s fantasy book series A Song of Ice And Fire, by naming one of the new species Ochyrocera varys, despite Varys not being a fictional spider character.

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, the researchers said.

Harry Potter book series.
One of the species gets its name from a character in the Harry Potter series (Paul Faith/PA)

Meanwhile, two other species, the Ochyrocera laracna and the Ochyrocera ungoliant, get their names from the classic works by JRR Tolkien.

Ochyrocera laracna is named after the giant spider Laracna (Shelob in English) who attacks main characters Frodo and Sam on their way to Mordor in The Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers, while Ungoliant, who appears in The Silmarillion, shares her name with Ochyrocera ungoliant.

Atlach-Nacha, the spider god from the universe created by HP Lovecraft, is referenced in the species Ochyrocera atlachnacha.

Ochyrocera varys eating a fly.
Ochyrocera varys eating a fly (Igor Cizauskas/Instituto Butantan)

The authors also pay tribute to David Kirk’s Little Miss Spider, a character remembered for her words “We have to be good to bugs; all bugs”, who inspired the name of Ochyrocera misspider.

The seven species, described in the open access journal ZooKeys, are classified as edaphic troglophile species, which means that they are capable of living away from sunlight but are not bound to the caves deep underground.

The scientists collected around 2,000 adult specimens over a five-year period to study the spiders.