Some amateur cave explorers discovered a new family of spiders in the caves near Grants Pass. Last night I was watching this on the local news and then this morning it was front page of the newspaper.
The spelunkers and others gave this specimen the name because of the fearsome front claws this spider has. The sent a specimen down to California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco which is the largest collection of spiders in the west. Entomologists there say the spider is reddish-brown and the size of a half dollar-evolved so distinctively that it requires its own taxonomic family. This is the first new spider family found since 1870.
“It took us a long time to figure out what it wasn’t” said Charles Griswold, curator of arachnids at the academy. “Even longer to figure out what it is” They used anatomy, and DNA to understand its evolutionary place. They had to then consult other experts all over the world about what it was. They all came to the conclusion that this was a something completely new to science. The discovery is described in the Friday online journal of ZooKeys. Which explains in detail-details I don’t understand the breakdown of this spider.
“Because it belongs to one of the more primitive groups of true spiders, it has the potential to change many of our current ideas about the early evolution of spiders, but it is better than a fossil, because we can study the entire organism along with its behavior and physiology not just those aspects that happen to have been fossilized”
The Oregon spider’s species name – marching-toni honors Deschutes County sheriff’s deputy Neil Marchington, who was on the first Western Cave Conservancy expedition in 2010 to inventory the critters in a cave on private land outside Grants Pass. A year later he led academy scientists to the site to collect live specimens.
“A lot of times, caves are very unique ecosystems, and what we find there can be very special”, said Marchinton from the jail in Bend where he works. “At other times they can be completely normal.”
“They make a little web, but hang under this web. They hang some of their legs out in space. This is all in the dark in a cave. We think the legs are stretched out waiting for something to come by like a fly, and when it hits the legs the claws may just snap shut”, but we haven’t seen this happen yet as the spider is very shy.
This spider does not look shy to me, very intimidating actually….eeek. Good thing I am not a spelunker. But awesome interesting find. To them it is like discovering a dinosaur.
excerpts above article have been taken from The Eugene Register Guard, by Jeff Barnard and Pictures from zookeys journal.