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Scientists named this horrifying spider after Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker

Published Jul 1st, 2020 12:20AM EDT
joker spider
Image: A. Zamani, et al.

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  • A new spider species has been named after Joaquin Phoenix thanks to his performance as the Joker.
  • The species has black and white stripes as well an eye-catching red pattern on its back, making it the perfect fit for its “Joker Spider” nickname.
  • The spider was found in Iran, and is believed to exist across the Middle East.

They say that life imitates art, and that certainly appears to be the case for Loureedia phoenixi, a newly-named species of spider that bears a striking resemblance to a well-known comic book villain. The “Joker Spider,” as it has been nicknamed, was recently discovered in the country of Iran by researchers who published their work in the journal Arthropoda Selecta.

Now, normally when new animal species are given names referencing some kind of pop culture phenomenon, the resemblance is loose at best. This time, however, you really have to hand it to the scientists (and, I suppose the spider itself) for nailing the aesthetics you’d expect from a Joker spider. I mean, just look at that thing.

According to the researchers, a pair of male spiders of this new species were discovered. That might seem like a small sample size, but you really only need a couple of examples of a creature in order to determine if it’s part of an existing species or something entirely new. In this case, the spider’s appearance made it relatively easy to compare against known spider species and declare it to be truly unique.

The pair of spiders that were recovered were compared to photographic evidence collected from around the region of other spider sightings, allowing the scientists to get a better idea of how far the species has branched out before being formally identified.

The researchers write:

A new species, Loureedia phoenixi sp.n., is described and illustrated on the basis of two male specimens from Alborz Province of Iran and its distribution is mapped based on the type locality and photographic records. These records represent the easternmost distribution limit of the genus.

The new species is the first of the genus to be found outside of the Mediterranean, and this extends the distribution over 1500 km to the east. It is endemic to Iran, collected from the type locality in Alborz Province, with photographic records in Tehran, Fars and Kerman provinces, northern and south-central Iran.

The spider’s scientific name, Loureedia phoenixi, is an obvious nod to the recent portrayal of the Joker character by actor Joaquin Phoenix. In Joker, Phoenix’s portrayal was polarizing, but the film did exceptionally well in theaters and Phoenix snatched an Oscar for his role as the title character.

Going forward, research on the spiders will continue, and the scientists believe if they track the males and follow them they’ll eventually come across females of the species which can then be formally identified.

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