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Friday, August 24, 2012

Introducing the cave robber spider


Meet Trogloraptor (‘cave robber’) marchingtoni (named for cave biologist Neil Marchinton), a spider so unusual that it founded not only a new genus, but also a new spider family. Needless to say, the discovery of a new family of North American spider is not an every day occurrence, and cause for celebration for the three arachnologists from the California Academy of Sciences who identified it.

If you’ve done any time exploring caves in Oregon or California, you may have already met T. marchingtoni. The creature is about four inches across at maximum spread and likes to hang from cave ceilings. Oh, and did I mention the claws? The authors speculate that they may be used as part of a novel and undoubtedly ruthless hunting technique.


Credit: Griswold CE, Audisio T, Ledford JM.

If you’re interested, you can read a detailed description of the spiders from chelicera to spinneret in the ZooKeys paper. And in case you’re wondering what it takes to find reclusive cave-dwelling spiders, here’s a picture of the three authors in their work clothes.

 

Left to right: Joel Ledford, Charles Griswold and Tracy Audisio.
Credit: Griswold CE, Audisio T, Ledford JM.