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Johnny Cash Memorialized With New Tarantula Species Discovered Near Folsom Prison

by Alexandria Wojcik   Feb 8, 2016 09:42 AM EST

Johnny Cash has been memorialized by research biologists with a new tarantula species named after him. The dark, furry Aphonopelma Johnnycashi was found near Folsom Prison and is just one of 14 new spiders recently discovered in Southwestern US, nearly doubling the previously known number of tarantula species.

In a decade-long study by scientists from Auburn University and Millsaps College published last week in ZooKeys journal, the authors explain that the Aphonopelma Johnnycashi "species can be found near the area of Folsom Prison in California, and like Cash's distinctive style of dress (where he was referred to as 'the man in black'), mature males of this species are generally black in color," Washington Post reports.

Johnny Cash, of course, famously wrote and recorded "Folsom Prison Blues," which first dropped on his debut album With His Hot and Blue Guitar. A live version of that seminal track, recorded during a 1968 concert at Folsom Prison, later appeared on At Folsom Prison. Listen below.

The study had set out to clean up the taxonomy of the Aphonopelma genus that had previously misreported more than 50 different species of tarantulas. Using new methods and over a decade's worth of new data, the team of scientists concluded that there are instead 29 species, including the aforementioned 14 totally new discoveries.

Dr. Chris Hamilton, lead author of the study, said "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," Treehugger reports. "With the Earth in the midst of a sixth mass extinction, it is astonishing how little we know about our planet's biodiversity, even for charismatic groups such as tarantulas."

The researchers asserted that despite their reputation, tarantulas don't bite or pose any other threat to humans. Hamilton refers to them as "teddy bears with eight legs."

However harmless the eight-legged teddy bears may be, the researchers warn people not to get too attached. Some species are especially vulnerable to the negative consequences of global climate change and subsequent habitat loss, The Washington Post reports.

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