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'Clawed' Trogloraptor spider discovered in US cave


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A female Trogloraptor marchingtoni in Lake Cave in Oregon


'Clawed' Trogloraptor spider discovered in US cave


The spider, which measures up to 3 inches across with its legs outstretched, was found by amateur cave explorers in a cave system outside Grants Pass in southern Oregon in the United States.


It is the first new family of spiders to be found in North America since the 1890s and scientists believe there could be many more similar species hidden in forests and caves in the country.


The new spider has been formally called Trogloraptor marchingtoni, but is commonly being called the cave robber spider. Scientists who identified the spider as a new family believe it hunts by hanging from strands of silk from the cave roof, snapping up passing prey with its long legs and oversized claws.


Professor Charles Griswold, curator of arachnology at the California Academy of Sciences who helped to identify the new spider, said there was still a lot of work to be done as they have no idea what it eats or exactly how it hunts.

He said: "For a spider, this is a pretty big one. In the torchlight it can look even bigger.


"It has remarkable claws and feet which are like scythes or hooks. We think these work to snap and trap their prey. They live in caves and make a few strands of silk from which they hang from the ceiling. They hang legs in air in dark and wait for their prey to come by. We have never seen them eat or catch their prey."


He added that finding a spider of this size suggested there were many more exciting discoveries of species to be made, even in well explored countries like the US.


He compared the discovery of the new arachnid to finding legendary creatures Bigfoot. He said: "There are still so many habitats to be explored in detail. There may be more species of Trogloraptor as there are many caves and forests that have still to be explored.


"This is a historic moment in arachnology to find a new family of spiders. The last time this happened was in 2000 when a spider was found in South Africa. The last time in North America was in the 1890s."


The formal description of the new species appeared in the scientific journal ZooKeys. Light brown in colour, it has long legs with large hooked claws on the end of the front six.


It was initially found by a group from the Western Cave Conservancy, who were exploring a cave system in the ancient forests of the Klamath-Siskiyou mountains in southern Oregon. They sent specimens to the arachnologists at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, where they struggled to identify it.


It is thought the spider has evolved separately inside the caves and so has been given its own family within the Arachnid class of animals – naming it Trogloraptor due to its large claws.


The scientists gave the new spider the name marchingtoni in honour of Douglas County sheriff's Deputy Dave Marchington, who led scientists to the cave where the spider had been found. They say the spider's impressive claws suggest they are "fierce, specialised predators". They believe it could be a close relative of another family of spiders known as goblin spiders.


Professor Griswold and his colleagues Tracy Audisio and Joel Ledford were so baffled by the new spider that they showed it to arachnologists around the world in a bid to identify it.


They have now produced a detailed guide to help distinguish it from other spider families.



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