Aphonopelma johnnycashi: New Tarantula Species Named After Johnny Cash

Researchers have discovered a previously unknown species of tarantula in the foothills of the western Sierra Nevada Mountains, and named it after legendary musician Johnny Cash.

“This species can be found near the area of Folsom Prison in California (famous for Cash’s song ‘Folsom Prison Blues’), and like Cash’s distinctive style of dress, where he was referred to as ‘the man in black’, mature males of this species are generally black in color,” the scientists said in a paper published in the journal ZooKeys.


New tarantula species Aphonopelma johnnycashi. Image credit: Dr. Chris Hamilton

The new species, Aphonopelma johnnycashi, has a distribution running along the western foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California, United States. Breeding occurs in September to November when the males abandon their burrows to search for females.

The discovery comes as a result of the most comprehensive taxonomic study ever performed on tarantulas. The team, who was lead by Dr. Chris Hamilton of the Auburn University Museum of Natural History, studied nearly 3,000 specimens over more than a decade of searching areas throughout the American Southwest.

As a result, the study sheds light on how many species of tarantula there are in the United States.

“More than 50 different species of tarantulas had been previously reported from the United States, but that many of them were poorly defined and actually belonged to the same species,” Dr. Hamilton said.

These results bring the species count down to 29 in the United States, among which Aphonopelma johnnycashi and 13 other species are new to science.

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