14 New Tarantula Species Identified, 1 Named for Johnny CashBy Russell Westerholm, UniversityHerald Reporter
One of 14 newly identified tarantulas was such a strong fit for a certain music icon, the researchers who discovered it likely had no other choice for a name other than Aphonopelma johnnycashi.
Published in the journal ZooKeys, the new study detailed 14 new species of tarantulas and one had a black coat and was found near the Folsom State Prison in California. They named it for the iconic country singer Johnny Cash, who famously wore black, sang a song called "Folsom Prison Blues," and recorded a live album at the prison.
"It immediately fit," study lead author Chris Hamilton, an arachnologist and graduate student at Auburn University's Department of Biological Sciences, told Live Science.
One of the reasons the researchers were able to identify so many different tarantulas was because the animal's various species are so similar to one another. In particular, the Aphonopelma genus covers most of the tarantulas in the U.S.
"A very important point that we want the public to understand is just how much work is involved in taxonomic research," Hamilton told Gizmodo. "It takes a lot of people, time, and funding to thoroughly understand how much diversity is on Earth."
Another aim for the study was to help conservationists, because while most tarantulas are doing quite well the more rare species are in trouble.
"Two of the new species are confined to single mountain ranges in southeastern Arizona, one of the United States' biodiversity hotspots," study co-author Brent Hendrixson said in a press release. "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."