The Trogloraptor was discovered in caves in southwest Oregon. (Photo : Zookeys)
A team involving not only scientific professionals but also everyday citizens have discovered something completely brand new in caves in southwest Oregon: a new family of spiders that has highly specialized claws. The scientists have named it Trogloraptor, which is Latin for "cave robber."
About all that is really known about the spiders is that they are so specialized that it not only deserves its own genus and species, but its own family as well. It is the first new family of spiders discovered in North America since the 1870s. They are larger than a half-dollar coin, and represent a very primitive stage of spiders that has scientists excited.
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"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," Norman I. Platnick from the American Museum of Natural History said. "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 scientists theorize that the spider's claws are an integral part of its hunting experience.
Trogloraptor was discovered by amateur cave explorers who then sent some of the spiders to scientists for further study.
"It took us a long time to figure out what it wasn't," said Charles Griswold, arachnid curator at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. "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."
"It's a good example of how science works - professional and citizen scientists share information," he added.
An interview with Charles Griswold from the "Today" Show:
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