New species of black spider discovered near Folsom Prison named after Johnny Cash

Aphonopelma johnnycashi is one of 14 newly discovered tarantula species

Scientists have named a new species of black tarantula after Johnny Cash.

BBC News reports that Aphonopelma johnnycashi is among 14 new tarantula species from the southern US. The arachnid was discovered near Folsom Prison in California, the same prison Cash played a series of gigs for prisoners at in the 1960s.

The all-black spider was discovered by Chris Hamilton as part of his PhD research at Auburn University in Alabama. A huge fan of Cash and his work, Hamilton says that one of the reasons the species was not discovered sooner is its similarity to other species, most notably the Mojave desert’s Aphonopelma iodius.


“It’s found along the foothills of the western Sierra Nevada mountains, and one of the places that’s there is Folsom Prison,” Hamilton said. “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. I have a Johnny Cash tattoo so I was very happy that it worked out that way.”

The Auburn University study rewrites the family tree of the Aphonopelma genus. The group was previously considered to include more than 50 separate species but Hamilton has cut that down to 29 and defined 14 entirely new species.

Cash is far from the first musician to have a new species of animal named after themselves. In 2014 a group of ‘hardcore’ deep sea snails was named after The Clash’s Joe Strummer while Ozzy Osbourne was honoured with a breed of bat frog in the same year.

Meanwhile, a new species of tarantula discovered in Brazil was named after John Lennon.


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