Giant Cave Spider Discovered in Oregon
What other fauna lurk undiscovered?
This new spider was found in caves in southwestern Oregon, a monumental discovery for citizen scientists from the Western Cave Conservancy and arachnologists from the California Academy of Sciences. It hangs from cave ceilings and it has extraordinary raptor-like claws, hence its name — Trogloraptor, or “cave robber.” Its huge claws suggest it is a fierce predator, but no one is certain yet what it eats.
It is a very strange and special spider, with some features that suggest it’s a relative of the goblin spider, but with a litany of other features that make it evolutionarily unique. It’s so different that the guy above represents a new genus, species and family on the tree of life.
Cal Academy’s Charles Griswold, curator of arachnology; Joel Ledford, postdoctoral researcher; and Tracy Audisio, graduate student, collected and described this new family. Then colleagues from San Diego State University found some more of them living in old-growth redwood forests, according to a news release from the journal ZooKeys, which just published a report on the new arachnid.
Its true distribution is still unknown, which in and of itself is interesting. It’s somewhat of a surprise that something so large — it’s four centimeters wide, about the size of a half-dollar — was not found already. The fact that it eluded scientists until now is startling, and it begs a creepy yet fascinating question: What else is out there, lurking in caves and logs, that remains to be discovered?