Arachnid Named After Johnny Cash

Researchers have reclassified 55 known tarantula species down to 15, while adding 14 new species, which now includes the famous Aphonopelma johnnycashi. “The tarantulas we have in California are fairly large so you think we would have a good idea what is here,” says Steve Heydon, a senior scientist at University of California Davis Bohart Museum of Entomology. But the mostly black tarantula species was discovered near Folsom State Prison, the subject of Johnny Cash’s Folsom Prison Blues, which was recorded during a concert there in 1968. So they decided to name it after Cash and his trademark black attire. (In 2008, Jason Bond, a biologist at East Carolina University, named a newly discovered trapdoor spider, Myrmekiaphila neilyoungi.)

The scientists say the different species of arachnids and insects remain extremely diverse and new discoveries are happening all the time. “We are probably only 20% done naming all the different kind of insects on the planet, and we have been at this since 1758,” says Heydon. As for A.johnnycashi, Heydon recommends not going to look for him. “You would have to be hiking at night in the summer,” he says, “And around Folsom Prison they might get a little suspicious.”

Cherie Yurco is a former editor at Making Music and has worked as a freelance editor and writer for over 20 years.

Leave a Reply