New species of Tarantula named “Johnny Cash”

Johnny Cash, the famous country singer who often performed in black, has had a new species of spider named after him. Aphonopelma johnny cash was found to be living near Folsom Prison, California, a venue made famous by Cash when he performed for inmates there in 1968.

The “new” tarantula – whose male appears jet-black – is one of 14 new species of spiders announced by the journal ZooKeys.

The study conducted by biologists represents a huge step forward in our understanding of the genus Aphonopelma, a harmless type of tarantula found mostly in the southern States.

Chris Hamilton, of Auburn University, Alabama, led a team of two colleagues over thousands of miles to log and study the spiders. The findings come as a result of more than a decade of fieldwork and analysis.

In a press release, Hamilton reported his joy and wonder at the discovery. “We often hear about how new species are being discovered from remote corners of the earth, but what is remarkable is that these spiders are in our own backyard, ” he said. “It is astonishing how little we know about our planet’s biodiversity,” he added.

The researchers studied some 3000 specimens during their task in what they called the most exhaustive taxonomic study ever undertaken in the field. Hamilton reports a lot of “double counting” of species took place, but that in the end 14 entirely new species emerged from the rest.

Hamilton, a Ph.D. student, himself has a Johnny Cash tattoo, and was thrilled with the new spider’s name: “It’s a perfect name. It fits the spider – it’s found around Folsom and the males are predominantly all black, so it fits his image.”

As well as the famous jailhouse performance, Cash released a live album entitled “At Folsom Prison” in May 1968. It came after his 1955 hit song, “Folsom Prison Blues”. The album was a huge hit in the United States, reaching number one on the country charts and number 15 on the national charts.


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