If you live in the American Southwest and have a devastating fear of spiders, you might need to be on the lookout from now on. Experts recently identified 14 new types of tarantula during a study that evaluated almost 3000 tarantulas from across the American Southwest. The study almost doubles the amount of tarantulas known to inhabit the American Southwest, even though its attempt at streamlining the categorization of this species has resulted in fewer American types on the whole. One of these newly identified types has received its name in honor of iconic country singer Johnny Cash, mainly because it was initially found close to Folsom Prison, which of course features in Cash’s widely known song “Folsom Prison Blues.”
“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,” says Dr. Chris Hamilton, the main researcher who published his study in the journal ZooKeys. “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.” For more information, check out this report.
The labeling of numerous new-found subspecies is the outcome of more than a decade of scavenging throughout the scorching hot deserts and freezing mountains of the American Southwest for the arachnids. The team made a decision to tackle the enormous record of species residing in the area since the historic list of arachnids identified for the whole U.S. is disorganized and also obsolete, with lots of spiders detailed more than once or even badly described.
Although many think about tarantulas as being the huge crawlers that nightmares are made of, they vary in proportions enormously. It’s correct that a few do get to a reasonably striking size of around 15 centimeters (6 inches), but some tend to be a much more tiny 5 centimeters (2 inches) long. The arachnids are located in a total of 12 states over the southern third of the U.S., along with 50 species identified in North America.
Lots of the tarantulas dwelling in the U.S. look very similar, which makes them difficult to recognize. As a result, the experts had to work with a combination of qualities, from their looks to their habits and also genes, to differentiate subspecies. Applying this strategy, the experts made it possible to discover 29 species, a jump from the 15 that was formerly discovered in the Southwest.
Even though many of these subspecies identified sport really wide varieties and good population levels, they discovered that some of them had been greatly constrained, and could possibly need protection. “Two of the new species are confined to single mountain ranges in southeastern Arizona, one of the United States’ biodiversity hotspots,” describes Brent Hendrixson, co-author of the research. “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 Aphonopelma johnnycashi, however, is set to steal just as many hearts as its namesake. Mature males have a striking black coloration and, as Dr. Hamilton describes, these spiders rarely bite and are not the least bit dangerous. Really, they are the teddy bears of the spider world.