A new black tarantula species – discovered near Folsom State Prison in California – was named after the renowned singer Johnny Cash.
The species, called Aphonopelma johnnycashi, is abundant in the American southwest near California’s Folsom State Prison – a location where Johnny Cash recorded a live album in 1968 and also performed, and which had inspired the song “Folsom Prison Blues.”
A total of fourteen new tarantula species were discovered as part of a study in which researchers looked at almost 3,000 tarantulas from across the American Southwest. In the study – published Thursday (Feb. 4) in the online journal ZooKeys – the researchers analysed tarantula DNA, behaviour, anatomy, and geography, to get the most comprehensive overview of tarantulas.
Dr. Chris Hamilton, lead author of the study and an arachnologist and graduate student at Auburn University’s Department of Biological Sciences, said that although tarantulas as a group are quite well known to the public – thanks to their representation in pop culture – a lot less is known about their diversity, distribution, and how they live in the wild.
Tarantulas can vary in size – from tiny individuals to those that have six-inch-long (fifteen cm) legs – but their anatomical features do not vary as much. Hamilton and his colleagues analyzed tarantulas from different locations in the south-western U.S. To allow the people to send the researchers specimens, Brent Hendrixson, study co-author and chairman of the Department of Biology at Millsaps College in Mississippi, developed a Web page.
Jason Bond, the study’s senior author and director of the Auburn University Museum of Natural History (AUMNH), said that the tarantula collection (more than 2,300 specimens) from the museum also proved useful for the new study. They provided data on variations between biogeography and tarantula populations, Bond noted.
Apart from A. johnnycashi, which was named after “The Man in Black” (Cash’s nickname), some of the new spider species were named in reference to where they were found. For instance there is A. superstitionense (the Superstition Mountains) and A. saguaro (Saguaro National Park). A. xwalxwal was named after a word in the language of Cahuilla Native Americans, which means ‘type of small spider.’ A. moellendorfii was named after arachnologist Dave Moellendorf.
Paula Cushing of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, said that the new study is a very important contribution to arachnology.
Image Source: tierwelt