An agile spider that somersaults down sand dunes has been discovered in the deserts of Morocco. The dancing arachnid has even been nicknamed the “flic-flac spider” for its gymnastic dexterity and has served as inspiration for a creepy-crawly robot.
Researchers officially named the spider gymnast Cebrennus rechenbergi after Ingo Rechenberg, a scientist from Berlin who discovered the animal on a trip to Morocco five years ago.
“I caught the spider by hand, and I took it to my car â€” and in the morning, I tried to take a good photograph of the spider,” Rechenberg said, adding that he then took the spider with him to Germany and showed it to arachnologist Peter JÃ¤ger, who determined that the animal was a new species.
Cebrennus rechenbergi looks similar to another spider species, Cebrennus villosus, which lives in Tunisia. JÃ¤ger distinguished C. rechenbergi from its Tunisian cousin by looking at minute differences in the sex organs of the spiders.
“However, the unique mode of locomotion also serves as a criterion to distinguish the species,” JÃ¤ger said in a statement.
The spider propels itself off the ground and moves its legs in a flic-flac motion to go uphill, downhill or on level ground. On the other hand, its Tunisian relative moves only by rolling its body down sand dunes. In fact, the flic-flac moves propel the spider across the sand at some 6.5 feet per second (2 meters per second), which is twice as fast as its walking speed.