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New Tarantula Species Named After Johnny Cash

Johnny cash spider
Hulton Archive / Getty Images

Johnny Cash has been discovered … in spider form! Scientists have named a new kind of black tarantula after the famous country legend.

The spider, named Aphonopelma johnnycashi, is completely black — so it’s fitting, then, that it shares its name with the Man in Black. Readers can see a photo of the tarantula on Scientific American‘s website — but only click that link if you’re not afraid of large, hairy, eight-legged creatures!

Chris Hamilton, lead author of the scientific study in the journal ZooKeyssays, “I’m a huge Johnny Cash fan. But I didn’t go into this searching for something I could name after him.” Rather, Hamilton and researchers at Auburn University and Millsaps College were on a mission to closely examine tarantulas found throughout the southern United States (west of the Mississippi River). Their hunt didn’t happen overnight: It was a decade long, and the team collected nearly 3,000 specimens in multiple states.

The Johnny Cash spider looks very similar to another species, A. iodius, and had previously been considered part of that species. However, “[w]hen we really started collecting lots of specimens from across the distribution and looking closely at their morphology, DNA and ecological variables, we saw that these specimens were unique and certainly warranted being separated as a separate species,” Hamilton says.

Further proof of the perfect fit of the new spider’s name: It was found in Folsom, Calif.; in fact, Hamilton says that he “wouldn’t be surprised” if the spider roamed around at or outside the prison made famous by Cash. (We can practically hear the spiders singing along: “I hear the train a-comin’ / It’s rollin’ ’round the bend.”)

Squeamish country music fans, rest assured: The Johnny Cash spider isn’t as scary as it appears. According to the article, experts say that tarantulas rarely bite, and their venom is not considered dangerous to humans.

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