Scientists and researchers are generally geeks – and by that I mean that they enjoy talking a lot about what they like, and that they are very passionate about it, which is the perfect trait for a scientist to have. And this is rarely more obvious than when it comes to naming things. One of the most recent examples of this is in relation to music, as Folsom Prison tarantula named after Johnny Cash.
The Aphonopelma genus walks the line
PhD student at the Alabama Auburn University, Chris Hamilton wanted a special project for his doctorate degree. Therefore, he decided to study tarantulas – more precisely the Aphonopelma genus, previously thought to contain over 50 different species.
As part of his project, the PhD student looked at over 3,000 specimens from a number of natural history collections, as well as from the wild. This is because most new species have already been found, but they haven’t been investigated yet.
Hamilton almost decimated the genus, taking the number of separate species down from over 50 to 29. And the number includes the 14 new species found by him and his team, all completely new to the scientific world.
Folsom Prison blues
As you may already suspect, one of the places where Hamilton and his team looked for spiders in wild was in western Sierra Nevada. To be more precise, the foothills of the western Sierra Nevada Mountains is where they looked, a place where a little correctional facility known as Folsom Prison is located.
Here, the team found 14 new species of tarantula, including one that had a particular trait. The arachnid had been found before, but it was most likely confused with a different species to which it looks similar if left for a while in a jar on a shelf.
Tarantula in black
The particular trait of the new spider is that the males are entirely black, unlike the females which can easily be confused with other species. So, not only was the spider found near Folsom Prison, but all of the males of the species are completely black. But wait, there’s more.
Hamilton, the guy who found the new species, also has a Johnny Cash tattoo, so there was really no doubt regarding the name of the new spider. This is how the legendary country singer will always be a part of science, with the discovery and naming of the Aphonopelma johnnycashi.
Image source: Wikimedia