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New 'Johnny Cash' Tarantula Discovered with 14 Other Spider Species

First Posted: Feb 05, 2016 07:29 AM EST

Scientists have discovered a new tarantula and have officially named it after Johnny Cash. The new tarantula is among the 14 spider species recently discovered in the United States.

"We often hear about new species are being discovered from remote corners of the Earth, but what is remarkable is that these spiders are in our own backyard," said Chris Hamilton, lead author of the new study, in a news release. "with the Earth in the midst of a sixth mass extinction, it is astonishing how little we know about our planet's biodiversity, even for charismatic groups such as tarantulas."

Tarantulas within the genus Aphonopelma are among the most unique species of spider in the United States. Within this genus, there are startlingly large size differences. While some species can reach six inches or more in leg span, others can fit on the face of a quarter.

These spiders are usually most conspicuous during the warmer months when adult males abandon their burrows in search of mates. However, very little was known about these spiders prior to the latest study.

In order to better understand the diversity and the distribution of these spiders, the researchers spent a decade researching tarantulas in the American Southwest. This revealed a total of 14 new species of tarantula in the United States which, while not distinctive visually, have other variations that make them distinct.

One of the new species was actually named Aphonopelma johnnycashi after the American singer-songwriter Johnny Cash.

The findings are published in the journal ZooKeys.

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