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Scientist Discovered New Worm Species that Kills Tarantula

Scientist have named a newly discovered species of worm that kills tarantulas after American actor, musician and producer Jeff Daniels, a distinction no other entertainer can claim. There are more than 25,000 described species of these worms, called nematodes, and they are one of the most abundant animals on Earth. However, this is only the second time one has ever been found to infect tarantulas.

They named it Tarantobelus jeffdanielsi, because Daniels’ character in the 1990 film Arachnophobia saves a town from a deadly infestation of spiders.  The team’s was published in the Journal of Parasitology.A wholesale tarantula breeder contacted Dillman for help identifying a mysterious infection in some of their tarantulas. Specimens sent for inspection had an odd white mass around the mouth area. Dillman, who teaches the only parasitology class at UCR, recognized the white areas immediately as nematodes.

Scientist in Europe identified the first nematodes found on tarantulas. However, that research examined only the worms themselves; not the worms as found on the spiders. Once infected, tarantulas begin to exhibit strange behaviors like walking around on tiptoe and not eating. The appendages that control the tarantula’s fangs also stop working.

Ir may take months because tarantulas don’t have to eat particularly often. However, if they get this infection, they will die of starvation. The jeffdanielsi infection is lethal, Dillman’s team learned how the worms reproduce, and where on the spiders they reside.

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