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Sting of Fire: Folsom Prison Tarantula Named for Johnny Cash

| 5 Feb 2016 16:51
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A new study re-categorizes all known tarantula species in the United States and reveals several new ones, including such a one named for country singer Johnny Cash.

Spider scientists across the United States have recently undertaken a massive study, which recategorizes the various known species of tarantula and adds more than a dozen new ones. One such animal, found in abundance on the outskirts of Folsom Prison in California, was furred head-to-toe in black.

"It just fit," said Chris Hamilton, the study's lead author. They named the new species Aphonopelma johnnycashi, after the legendary country singer Johnny Cash.

Cash famously recorded a live album at Folsom, along with a hit song "Folsom Prison Blues." Cash was also known for dressing entirely in black for much of his musical career, earning him the nickname "The Man in Black." Additionally, as seen in the above image, he enjoyed crouching low in the grass, waiting to strike at unsuspecting prey.

Several new species were revealed during the study. None of the animals were entirely new to the researchers, but a good spring cleaning never hurt taxonomy. Arachnologists must keep their eyes wide open all the time: spiders from different states might be mistakenly said to be of the same species. Some tarantulas, like johnnycashi, fit under the umbrella of the wrong species. So if you think two critters are of a kind, just be sure to check the line.

Only the Folsom Prison tarantula received a celebrity name; many were named for where they were discovered. A. superstitionense, for one, was not named for a Stevie Wonder song, but rather the Superstition Mountains in Arizona. Someday, Stevie. Someday.

You can see many of the "new" species in the gallery below. They're basically teddy bears!

While scientists might have fun naming animals they discover, Hamilton wants to point out that's not why they get up in the morning: "We do it because we love what we do. We really love the organisms, and we want to know what's here on Earth and what their relationships are."

Well, now my whole day is about going back through Cash's discography.

Source: ZooKeys

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