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Scientists discover tarantula with bizarre horn on its back

Researchers don't know what the heck that spider horn on the Ceratogyrus attonitifer is for.

Spider expert Ian Enelbrecht photographed this close-up of the odd horn found on C. attonitifer.
Ian Enelbrecht

Excuse me, your nightmares would like to have a word with you. 

Please take a moment to say hello to Ceratogyrus attonitifer, a spider with a species name derived from the Latin root for astonishment. Because that's just how amazed the scientists were who found it.

The new-to-science tarantula sports a horn-like protuberance on its back. Researchers from the National Geographic Okavango Wilderness Project discovered it in Angola in Africa while investigating biodiversity in the region.

Ceratogyrus attonitifer is a type of horned baboon spider, but its prominent soft horn is highly unusual. The team described the tarantula in a paper published this month in the African Invertebrates journal. "No other spider in the world possesses a similar foveal protuberance," the researchers say.

The spiders are venomous and like to dine on insects. "The venom is not considered to be dangerous, though bites may result in infections which can be fatal due to poor medical access," the paper notes.

C. attonitifer might seem horrifying or scary to people who fear spiders, but it's an eye-opener for arachnologists. Researchers hope to further study the mysterious spider to learn more about the extent of its range.