Trogloraptor: America's Bigfoot of Spiders Discovered in Caves
A new species of a cave spider has been found in the Pacific Northwest region of the US... and it has claws.
A spider recently discovered in caves in the Pacific Northwest is an odd beast: not only is it a new species, it’s got its own genus and even a family to itself. Up to three inches wide with its legs extended, it sports long, sharp claws that suggest it’s a keen predator of some sort, but scientists currently have no idea what it eats. It was discovered hanging from rather messy webs on the ceilings of caves, as well as in undergrowth in redwood forests. Its genus name, Trogloraptor, means cave robber.
Troglo's story begins with citizen scientists in the Western Cave Conservancy who spotted the strange spider in Oregon's caves. They sent specimens to researchers at the California Academy of Sciences where entomologist Tracy Audisio, a research fellow at the California Academy of Sciences, puzzled over the new find. After approaching every member of the arachnology lab, she and Charles Griswold, the academy's curator of arachnology, took the finding to arachnologists around the country. They combed through comparative anatomy, fossil records and genetic analyses in their efforts to place the new spider, only to conclude that the cave dweller has a totally unique lineage.
The closest known relatives to this clawed creepy-crawler come from the Oonipidae, or goblin family of spiders. Trogloraptor's anatomy reveals, however, several ancient features, including a primitive respiratory system that sets these spiders apart. The researchers believe the Trogloraptor family separated into its own evolutionary branch some 130 million years ago.