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Tarantula Species Named After Well-Known Singer-Songwriter

Update Date: Feb 08, 2016 11:30 AM EST
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A lot of you like Johnny Cash and a lot of you are scared of tarantulas. But getting the two of them together could create a strange combination---and you wouldn't understand whether you need to give them the thumbs up or not.

You can view this new guy if you live in the southern-western United States, and then make up your mind.

It was first discovered by a team of researchers from Auburn University, who spotted 14 new spider species in the Aphonopelma genus. They did not hear it singing any song but decided to call A. johnnycashi, nevertheless, as it was found near California's Folsom Prison. That prison was mentioned in his song, "Folsom Prison Blues," along with the inclination of males to show a solid black color, referencing Cash's "man in black" style of fashion.

Hence, this hairy, large-bodied family of tarantulas has become a centre of interest for a number of people.

"We often hear about how new species are being discovered from remote corners of the Earth, but what is remarkable is that these spiders are in our own backyard," Chris Hamilton, lead author of the study, said in a press 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."

This is a unique species within the Aphonopelma genus. There is a lot of difference in the size between the species. Some have legs that could be as long as your arms whereas other legs may touch six inches in leg span.

To get an insight into the tarantula's diversity and geographic distribution, the team has been searching the deserts, mountains and other spots in the southwestern part of the country. It has located more than 3,000 specimens and has made the project a comprehensive taxonomic research on the group.

A number of them seem to be getting endangered, and require a lot of conservation efforts.

"Two of the new species are confined to single mountain ranges in southeastern Arizona, one of the United States' biodiversity hotspots," said Brent Hendrixson, co-author of the study. "These fragile habitats are threatened by increased urbanization, recreation and climate change. There is also some concern that these spiders will become popular in the pet trade due to their rarity, so we need to consider the impact that collectors may have on populations as well."

The findings were published in Feb. 4,2016 issue of ZooKeys.

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