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Newly discovered spider represents new family, not just genus or species

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From “Spider Version of Bigfoot Emerges from Caves in the Pacific Northwest” (Science Daily, August 14, 2012), we learn,

Whereas Bigfoot is probably just fiction, a huge, newly discovered spider is very real. Trogloraptor (or “cave robber”) is named for its cave home and spectacular, elongate claws. It is a spider so evolutionarily special that it represents not only a new genus and species, but also a new family (Trogloraptoridae). Even for the species-rich insects and arachnids, to discover a new, previously unknown family is an historic moment.

Trogloraptor hangs beneath rudimentary webs on cave ceilings. It is about four centimeters wide when its legs are extended — larger than the size of a half-dollar coin. Their extraordinary, raptorial claws suggest that they are fierce, specialized predators, but their prey and attack behavior remain unknown.

It’s significant that so large a spider could remain unknown to science till just this year. Another recent find was a large Middle Eastern spider. Oh, and an eyeless huntsman spider. It will be interesting to see how these finds fit into the conventional history of life – as opposed to being jimmied in – and how many more of them are out there.

Photo credit: Trogloraptor. (Credit: Image courtesy of Pensoft Publishers)


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