Pritha garfieldi spider, named for Andrew Garfield, image by A. Zamani

New Discoveries is a collaboration between Stanford and Academy scientists and staff, appearing on the second and fourth Wednesdays of every month. Here we celebrate newly discovered species and demonstrate how much more there is to learn about life on Earth.

Iranian-Hollywood Spiders

What do two new spider species have in common with Hollywood actors? In the case of Filistata maguirei and Pritha garfieldi, it’s a connection to web-weaving actors Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield, stars of the most recent Spider-Man movies. Like Spidey, both species are active at night. They live among rocks, logs, and other micro-habitats and are called “crevice weavers” by the authors. F. maguirei was discovered in the Geno Biosphere Reserve in Iran. Pritha garfieldi was found in the Alborz Mountains of northern Iran. The famous spiders were described in the open-access journal Arthropoda Selecta.

A New Galápagos Tortoise

How do you hide an enormous Galápagos tortoise in plain sight for a hundred-plus years? Disguise two species as one, according to a new study in PLoS ONE. Santa Cruz Island was known to host one species of giant tortoise, Chelonoidis porteri, which lived on both sides of the island. But a team of researchers, led by Gisella Caccone of Yale University, studied the western and eastern tortoises’ genetics and morphology and discovered that the one species is actually two! The newly named Eastern Santa Cruz Tortoise, called Chelonoidis donfaustoi, is named for a longtime Galápagos tortoise conservationist and park ranger, Fausto Llerena Sánchez, or “Don Fausto.”

What will next month’s discoveries uncover?

Pritha garfieldi image: A. Zamani

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