New Tarantula Species Named After Johnny Cash

Posted on February 5, 2016

Aphonopelma johnnycashi

A new tarantula species has been named after singer-songwriter Johnny Cash. The tarantula is one of fourteen new spiders species discovered in the southwestern United States.

The new spiders were discovered and identified by biologists at Auburn University and Millsaps College. The name of the Johnny Cash species is Aphonopelma johnnycashi. It is pictured above.

Dr. Chris Hamilton, lead author of the study, says in a statement, "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. 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."

Tarantulas in the genus Aphonopelma have a great size range from the size of a quarter to as large as six inches (15 centimeters) or more in leg span. The image below shows the amazing size contrast in the species.

Wide range of sizes of spiders in Aphonopelma genus


Dr. Hamilton honored Johnny Cash with the spider name because the species is found in California near Folsom Prison, which is famous for Cash's song "Folsom Prison Blues." Mature males of the species are also generally solid black in coloration and Cash was known as the "The Man in Black" for his clothing choices. He also wrote a song called "Man In Black."

Brent Hendrixson, a co-author of the study, notes that these newly discovered spiders live in fragile habitats that are "threatened by increased urbanization, recreation, and climate change." There are also pet trade concerns due the rarity of the spiders. A research paper on the new spiders was published here in the journal, ZooKeys.

Photo: Dr. Chris A. Hamilton