David Bowie (“The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars” and, well, music legend duh) has just lent his name posthumously to 54 newly-discovered Asian cousins of a spider common to the Philippines.
Dr. Peter Jäger, an arachnologist from the Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum in Germany, recently announced the discovery of these related species of huntsman spiders from across Asia. He classified them under the new genus, Bowie gen. nov., seizing the opportunity to raise public appreciation of wildlife conservation on the occasion of the famed musician’s 75th birth anniversary in 2022.
“When examining species from a predominantly Asian lineage in this family, I soon realized that they could not be assigned to any preexisting genus,” Jäger explained in a press release. “I therefore dedicated this new genre to David Bowie and called it simply Bowie!”
“I wanted to commemorate this incomparable artist who left us much too early, but what matters most to me here is the idea of conservation: We only protect what we know—and an attractive name is much more likely to be remembered,” he added.
Huntsman spiders are aptly named because they prefer to roam around at night in search of prey instead of building webs. They usually sport a brown coloration and long legs, and can grow as big as an open human hand or bigger. The Philippine huntsman species Heteropoda venatoria is commonly found in homes and farms across the country. Known colloquially as “gagambang bahay,” it is harmless and is actually welcome because it eats cockroaches and other small insect pests.
This is not the first time that Jäger chose to honor his favorite musician. In 2008, he named a different huntsman spider species Heteropoda davidbowie. Jäger’s discovery of Bowie gen. nov was published in the journal Zootaxa on August 4.