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When You Post a Picture of a Weird Looking Bug on Facebook, You're Helping Science

Some scientists have started using social media as a powerful tool for discovering new species, and believe they’ve identified dozens of new spider species alone via Facebook photos.

Who knew the next generation of social media stars would consist of giant arachnids? Recently, biologists’ use of Facebook to gain insight on the baboon spider, a mammoth tarantula species native to southern Africa, has emerged as a case study demonstrating social media’s power to transform how scientists collect data and discover new creatures.

Baboon Spiders: A Study in Crowdsourcing Scientific Discovery

Seeking to learn more about baboon spiders, researchers created a tool to collate images of the elusive eight-legger: the aptly-named Baboon Spider Atlas. The atlas, which crawls Facebook and other social media platforms in search of relevant photos, takes advantage of the public’s proclivity to post photos of particularly strange or startling creatures online.

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