Socca spiders take the field in time for the World Cup

A new genus of Australian spiders has been named Socca, just in time for the World Cup.

The Murdoch University arachnologists named the new genus of orb weavers after their favourite game. The genus includes 12 species, enough for a team of arachnids and their coach.

Dr Pedro Castanheira says, because his co-author Dr Volker Framenau is German, “and I am Brazilian, we named [the spiders] after one of our hobbies. And as a coincidence the paper came out during the World Cup.”

The football fans didn’t stop there. Species named include Socca arena and Socca plaia, as well as a handful named after famous players.

Australian soccer player and coach Johnny Warren (1943 – 2004) is honoured as S. johnnywarreni.

Soviet footballer Lev Yashin (1929 – 1990) – the greatest goalkeeper of all time according to FIFA – was nicknamed the “black spider”. Appropriately, Yashin now has one named after him, although according to Castanheira, the S. levyashin spider may already be extinct.

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Each spider genus is identified by unique morphological structures. For Socca there are unique abdominal tubercles (a polite word for the spider’s bottom) and genitalia.

S. eugeni is named after famed arachnologist Eugen von Keyserling (1833 – 1889), and S. kullmani after Ernst Kullmann (1931 – 1996). Kullman was the director of the Cologne Zoo and co-authored the book, Leben am seidenen Faden – Die rätselvolle Welt der Spinnen (which translates as Life on a silken thread – the mysterious world of spiders).

Then there’s one named after the late Elvis Presley, S. elvispresleyi, “which was named due to the morphological structure of the male genitalia which resembles the Elvis hairstyle,” says Castanheira.

The arachnologists are currently glued to the World Cup, with Castanheira cheering for his home team Brazil, and of course Australia.

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