AUBURN, Ala. – A team of researchers, led by Chris Hamilton, former doctoral student in the Department of Biological Sciences at Auburn University, has discovered a previously unknown species of tarantula and named it after legendary singer-songwriter Johnny Cash.
The species, Aphonopelma johnnycashi, was found in California near the site of Folsom State Prison, which Cash made famous in his song “Folsom Prison Blues.” The mature male Aphonopelma johnnycashi measures up to 6 inches across and is generally solid black in color, much like Cash’s distinctive style of dress from which his nickname, “The Man in Black,” was coined.
The discovery was made during a study recently published by ZooKeys, a journal that features biodiversity research.
Along with the Aphonopelma johnnycashi, Hamilton’s study determined there are only 29 species of tarantula in the United States, 14 of which are new to science. Researchers had previously identified 55 species. The new descriptions nearly double the number of species known from the American Southwest, a region described as a biodiversity hotspot featuring frigid mountains and scorching deserts.