‘Pear-shaped’ creatures — with unusual genitalia — found in Australia. See new species

During a recent field trip through southern Australia, a group of researchers collected a number of “unusual” orb-weaving spiders.

The tiny critters’ long, cylindrical abdomen resembled other species’, but scientists noticed distinct differences. Instead, the creature was identified as belonging to a new genus and species of spider, according to a study published Sept. 4 in Evolutionary Systematics.

Named Venomius tomhardyi because of its resemblance to Marvel’s Venom — portrayed by actor Tom Hardy in several films — the new species was previously known in museum records, but it had never undergone extensive research, experts said.

Scientists said they collected an abundance of male and female Venomius tomhardyi throughout southern Australia.

A male Venomius tomhardyi.
A male Venomius tomhardyi.
A female Venomius tomhardyi.
A female Venomius tomhardyi.

At night, the creatures were found in the bushlands and forests in vertical orb-webs about 3 feet to 6.5 feet off the ground, the study said. Webs were usually found on exposed, dead or fallen branches, but they were sometimes attached to tree trunks. Some webs, especially those used by females and juveniles, were connected to silk-lined holes in the branches where the spiders could retreat to if disturbed.

During the day, the creatures were observed hiding in the silk-lined hollows, according to researchers.

The medium-sized, orb-weaving spiders are “pear-shaped” and long, scientists said. They are distinguished from other, similar spider species by their unique genitalia.

Male specimens measured between 0.2 inches and 0.25 inches, scientists said. Their carapaces (hard defensive covering), chelicerae (mouth) and upper legs are orange-brown. The lower parts of their legs are darker.

The spiders have a pale yellow abdomen that is marked with three large black streaks, photos show. The streaks expand into a large black patch at the back of the creature’s abdomen.

Female Venomius tomhardyi are larger than males, measuring between 0.35 inches and 0.46 inches, according to researchers. They have a black carapace and chelicerae. Their legs are black and yellow.

The females also have a pale yellow abdomen with dark marks that merge into a dark black patch, the study said.

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