33 new trapdoor spider species discovered in the American southwest26/12/2012 10:02:45 Barak Obama & Angelina Jolie get spiders named after them
December 2012. A researcher at the Auburn University Museum of Natural History and Department of Biological Sciences has reported the discovery 33 new trapdoor spider species from the American Southwest. These newly described species all belong to the genus Aptostichus which now contains 40 species, two of which are already famous - Aptostichus stephencolberti and Aptostichus angelinajolieae.
Other notable new species names include Aptostichus anzaborrego, known only from the Anza Borrego Desert State Park in southern California; and Aptostichus sarlacc from the Mojave Desert, named for George Lucas' Star Wars creature, the Sarlacc from the fictional desert planet Tatooine.
The researcher, Prof. Jason Bond, who is a trapdoor spider expert and the director of the Auburn University Museum of Natural History was excited at the prospect of such a remarkable and large find of new species here in the United States and particularly California.
Like other trapdoor spider species, individuals are rarely seen because they live their lives in below-ground burrows that are covered by trapdoors, made by the spider using mixtures of soil, sand, and/or plant material, and silk. The trapdoor serves to hide the spider when it forages for meals at the burrow entrance, usually at night.
Aptostichus species are found in an amazing number of Californian habitats to include coastal sand dunes, chaparral, desert, oak woodland forests, and at high altitudes in the alpine habitats of the Sierra Nevada mountain range.
Bond said, "This particular group of trapdoor spiders are among some of the most beautiful with which I have worked; species often have gorgeous tiger-striping on their abdomens. Aptostichus to my mind represents a true adaptive radiation - a classical situation in evolutionary biology where diversification, or speciation, has occurred such that a large number of species occupy a wide range of different habitats".
Bond also noted that while a number of the species have rather fanciful names, his favourite is the one named for his daughter Elisabeth. "Elisabeth's spider is from an incredibly extreme desert environment out near Barstow, California that is the site of a relatively young volcanic cinder cone. The spiders make their burrows among the lava tubes that extend out from the cone - it is a spectacular place to visit but the species is very difficult to collect because the spiders build rather deep burrow among the rocks".