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Southeast Asia, explained

Laos: an eyeless spider with corporate endorsement

Newly discovered creature crawls in remote, pitch-black caves.
Spider laos no eyes 2012Enlarge
A scientist at the Germany-based Senckenberg Research Institute has discovered a rare, eyeless spider deep inside caves in Laos. (Senckenberg Research Institute/Courtesy)

The clump of bulbous eyes fixed to most spiders' faces is missing from a newly discovered species found in a pitch-black Southeast Asian cave.

Introducing the "Sinopoda Scurion."

Its face is bald but for flecks of hair and a mean set of pincers. (Those teeth are less menacing than they appear: the little creature boats a mere six-centimeter leg span, according to the Senckenberg Institute scientist who found it.) Research suggests that this species inhabits caves so devoid of light that it flung its useless eyeballs aside at some point in its evolutionary past.

More interesting still is that the spider has corporate endorsement.

The other nine spiders discovered by this scientist, Peter Jäger, received relevant names derived from the Lao tongue. "Sinopoda Scurion" has a cousin, for example, with two eyes. It's name is "Sinopoda Soong," the latter word meaning "two" in Lao. Another cousin has the surame "cave."

But "Scurion" is a) a Swiss maker of high-end headlamps used by Jäger and b) a patron of biodiversity programs. As Senckenberg notes on its Web site, "With a one-off donation to (the Patrons of Biodiversity program) it is possible to immortalise a name of ones choice."

Hear that, corporate patrons of biodiversity? For the right price, Sinopoda Pizza Hut or Sinopoda Hyundai could someday creep blindly through Laos' darkest corners.


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