Warm Southern Breeze

"… there is no such thing as nothing."

New Spider found in Oregon Cave

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Friday, August 17, 2012

Kewl, eh?

But only if you’re not afraid of spiders.

“I don’t like spiders and snakes
And that ain’t what it takes to love me
Like I want to be loved by you.”


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Friday, August 17, 2012 11:57 AM EDT

Beware The ‘Cave Robber’: New Spider With Velociraptor-Like Claws Found In Oregon

By Roxanne Palmer

A mysterious organism has been found lurking in the caves and forests of the Pacific Northwest. No, it’s not a sasquatch – it’s a six-eyed spider with curved, vicious-looking claws that scientists have dubbed Trogloraptor, or “cave robber.”

In a paper published in the journal Zookeys on Friday, scientists from the arachnology lab at the California Academy of Sciences described the new critter, which is about the size of a half-dollar coin and likes to hang from simple webs on the ceilings of caves. Researchers and citizen scientist have found Trogloraptor in old-growth redwood forests and in caves across Oregon and California.

It has curved claws that are part Velociraptor and part fine-toothed comb – appendages that suggest a specialized kind of hunting strategy, but the details aren’t yet clear, according to the authors.

New spider found in Oregon cave 297533

A close-up view of the claw of the newly discovered Trogloraptor spider. Image courtesy Griswold et al. via Zookeys.

Trogloraptor marchingtoni is not just a new species and genus; it’s also the first member of a completely new family of spiders that researchers are calling Trogloraptoridae. Based on the structure of its genitalia and silk-spinning organs, the researchers think it’s closely related to the superfamily Dysderoidea, which contains four families of spiders – including the Oonopidae, or “goblin spiders” – characterized by pinching fangs and six eyes instead of the classical eight.

What’s remarkable is that while scientists and citizens have found at least 3,700 species of spider in North America, “there are still surprises in store in this well-known region, especially in remote or inaccessible places, such as caves,” the authors wrote.

Trogloraptor isn’t the first new spider that’s been found thanks to the help of amateurs. Photographer and vineyard worker Stuart Harris snapped a picture of a tiny jumping spider in an Australian national park. The photo caught the attention of spider experts when Harris posted it to his Flickr account, and it was soon pegged as a new kind of peacock spider. The spider was named Maratus harrisi in Harris’ honor.

In 2011, another Australian man found an oddly colored trapdoor spider with a brilliant white head. The man sent it to the Western Australian Museum.

“I nearly fell over when I saw its white head,” museum senior curator Mark Harvey told National Geographic last November.

Now that Trogloraptor has been identified, the real work begins: arachnologists will study the new spider’s behavior more closely – and keep an eye out for any undiscovered sister species.

“If such a large and bizarre spider could have gone undetected for so long, who knows what else may lurk undiscovered in this remarkable part of the world,” the authors wrote.

SOURCE: Griswold et al. “An extraordinary new family of spiders from caves in the Pacific Northwest (Araneae, Trogloraptoridae, new family).” ZooKeys 215: 77-102, 17 August 2012.


Scientists Discover New Cave Spider Species… with Claws!

August 17, 2012

Meet Trogloraptor, fearsomeness incarnate. The creature more than lives up to its name—it is, in fact, an eight-legged showcase for scientific novelty. The spider somewhat resembles the brown recluse, famed for its flesh-necrotizing venom—but at four centimeters, Trogloraptor is about twice as large. In fact, this spider is an entirely new critter—just look at those legs, each ends in a curved, scythelike claw. Citizen scientists and arachnologists have uncovered these spiders in the caves of southwestern Oregon and old-growth redwood forests. As they report in ZooKeys, the discovery of Trogloraptor is a taxonomic wonder that establishes a new family, genus and species in the spider family tree.

Troglo’s story begins with citizen scientists in the Western Cave Conservancy who spotted the strange spider in Oregon’s caves. They sent specimens to researchers at the California Academy of Sciences where entomologist Tracy Audisio, a research fellow at the California Academy of Sciences, puzzled over the new find. After approaching every member of the arachnology lab, she and Charles Griswold, the academy’s curator of arachnology, took the finding to arachnologists around the country. They combed through comparative anatomy, fossil records and genetic analyses in their efforts to place the new spider, only to conclude that the cave dweller has a totally unique lineage.

The closest known relatives to this clawed creepy-crawler come from the Oonipidae, or goblin family of spiders. Trogloraptor‘s anatomy reveals, however, several ancient features, including a primitive respiratory system that sets these spiders apart. The researchers believe the Trogloraptor family separated into its own evolutionary branch some 130 million years ago.

The spider’s name is Latin for “cave robber,” a reference to its habitat and rapacious-looking talons. As for the claws, there’s another genus of spiders with similar appendages, the Spelungula of New Zealand. These cave spiders are otherwise distinct from Trogloraptor, suggesting their claws evolved independently. Troglo’s claws are barbed on their underside and may be designed to clamp shut on passing prey. The researchers believe that, like Spelungula, Trogloraptor dangles from cave ceilings with legs akimbo, then snaps its claws like a trap when small flies pass by. The spider’s exact prey, however, is unknown. Before arachnophobes get too nervous, though, Griswold notes that the spiders are not likely to be venomous to humans. In fact, they’re quite shy. Working with live specimens, he’s observed that their behavior is distinctly unaggressive and their main interest is escaping the light as quickly as possible.

Researchers at San Diego State University have spotted juveniles in old-growth redwood forests. Although more study is needed, these specimens are likely a different species from those found in the caves. Griswold notes that given the age of this family and the former distribution of redwoods in North America, it’s possible that other Trogloraptor species could inhabit caves across the country. “They could be living in caves in Nevada,” Griswold says. “They may have been hiding there since the Pliocene or Miocene.” Given their fragile habitats and ancient history, these creatures warrant protection as evolutionary marvels.
Daisy Yuhas

New spider found in Oregon

Photo by Griswold CE, Audisio T, Ledford JM


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