Explorers have found a new family of spiders in the Siskiyou Mountains of Southern Oregon. (Photo : California Academy of Sciences/Griswold CE, Audisio T, Ledford JM)
A new species of spider was discovered in an Oregon cave, featuring a distinctive physical characteristic: claws.
Given the name Trogloraptor, the arachnid was found by scientists from the Western Cave Conservancy and archaeologists from the California Academy of Sciences.
The discovery is also fundamental as it is both a new species and genus (Trogloraptoridae). The Trogloraptor name stands for "cave robber," according to Wired.
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The scientists suggest the new species to be related to the goblin spiders, but the Trogloraptor's physical characteristics of extinct and current spiders have given scientists reasons to conduct further research.
According to the Associated Press, Charles Griswold, curator of arachnids, said, "It took us a long time to figure out what it wasn't. Even longer to figure out what it is. We used anatomy. We used DNA to understand its evolutionary place. Then we consulted other experts all over the world about what this was. They all concurred with our opinion that this was something completely new to science."
Curator Emeritus of Spiders at the American Museum of Natural History Norman Platnick said, "Because it belongs to one of the more primitive groups of true spiders, it has the potential to change many of our current ideas about the early evolution of spiders. But it is better than a fossil, because we can study the entire organism, along with its behavior and physiology, not just those aspects that happen to have been fossilized."
The spider is measured to be 1.5 inches wide with its limbs extended, slightly bigger than a dollar coin. The limbs also have claw-like features, most likely to better secure prey, but scientists have not concluded on how the new species hunts or its defense behaviors.
"They hang some of their legs out in space. This is all in the dark in a cave. We think the legs are stretched out waiting for something to come by, like a fly, and when it hits the legs, the claws may just snap shut," said Griswold.
He noted that the scientists have not seen how the spiders eat as they have been shown to be "very shy," despite offering it other insects. Some have died as a result.
The National Science Foundation helped fund the study.