Over 14 new tarantula species have been discovered in the United States, and one was even named after the late singer-songwriter Johnny Cash.
Those with arachnophobia may want to turn away. For everyone else, there’s great news – scientists have discovered 14 new tarantula species throughout the southern United States. And according to a report from the BBC, one of these new species bears the name of the late outlaw country singer, Johnny Cash.
Aphonopelma johnnysachi, as the new species was named, joins 13 other distinctly new tarantulas that were recently described in the journal ZooKeys. The findings, scientists say, may completely rewrite the current family tree of the Aphonopelma genus.
Researcher Chris Hamilton, a researcher at Auburn University in Alabama, says that he was able to whittle the number of species in the Aphonopelma genus from 50 to 29. He was able to get rid of some duplicate counts, but revealed 14 new species in the process. “We really tried to clean the taxonomy up,” said Hamilton, a postdoctoral researcher at the Florida Museum of Natural History.
Hamilton and colleagues examined over 3,000 tarantula specimens, both from the wild and from archives at natural history museums. “A lot of previous names got eliminated. But there were 14 that were genuinely unique and new,” he said.
Hamilton marveled at the possibility of finding a new species in his own back yard. “A lot of people think of new species as coming from areas of the Earth that not many humans have been to before… but that’s really frankly not the case,” he said. Hamilton believes that the majority of species have already been collected – they’re simply sitting on shelves waiting to be described and named.
The Johnny Cash tarantula was given its name due to its outlaw nature. It was discovered in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains in California, located in the same county as Folsom Prison, where Cash gave one of his most famous performances. The males were also all black, mirroring the image of the deceased country star.
Many of the newly described species bear striking resemblances to other species found nearby, so it isn’t a big surprise that some of them have gone undetected until now. It wasn’t until a genomic analysis was carried out that scientists knew they were dealing with different species.
A press release outlining the details of the recent tarantula study can be found here.