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Scientists reclassify tarantula species, name one after Johnny Cash

by • February 7, 2016 • No Comments

The “man in black” may be gone, but he’ll nat any time be forgotten, especially one of arachnologists. Researchers of Auburn University and Millsaps College have reclassified 55 known tarantula species down to 15, while adding 14 new species, which include Aphonopelma johnnycashi. The manyly black tarantula species was discovered near Folsom State Prison in California, which is the subject of one of Johnny Cash’s many famous songs, “Folsom Prison Blues,” recorded during a concert at the prison in 1968.

The 10-year study assessed just about 3,000 tarantulas discovered throughout the southwest region of the U.S., with the researchers looking at differentiators such as DNA, anatomy, geography and behavior. Spiders were collected by researchers, citizen-scientists and borrowed of museum collections, particularly the Auburn University Museum of Natural History which houses 2,300 tarantula specimens gathered over a 50-year period. Results of the tarantula study, the many comprehensive at any time, were published in the journal ZooKeys.

Researchers sought to shine a few light on the diversity, distribution, behavior and habitats of the spiders, which had remained murky until now. Because tarantula species are much like anatomically, but with a wide variance in dimensions of 6 inches (15 cm) to less than an inch (2.5 cm), the taxonomy proved problematic to previous scientists and was the reason the spider was divided into additional species than was merited.

The researchers additional grouped their 29 species into five lineages: a California-only group, a western group, eastern group, high-elevation group and group with sat any timeal miniaturized species. Tarantulas are discovered throughout Mexico and Central America, and across the southern third of the U.S. of the Mississippi River to California. They thrive in a diversity of environments, and generally live underground in silk-lined burrows.

As for the Johnny Cash tarantula, study lead author and arachnologist Chris Hamilton of Auburn University’s Department of Biological Sciences said the male spider’s dark coloration reminded him of Cash’s trademark black attire. The researchers were tasked with naming all 14 of the new species as well. A. saguaro are discovered in Saguaro National Park in Arizona, while A. superstitionense are located in which state’s Superstition Mountains.

Source: ZooKeys

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