Short-legged Oregon arachnid gets 'behemoth' name

Reuters News
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Posted: Feb 03, 2016 9:54 PM

By Courtney Sherwood

PORTLAND, Ore. (Reuters) - Researchers have bestowed a grandiose scientific name on a tiny, spider-like cousin of the daddy longlegs, officially dubbing the newly discovered denizen of remote Oregon forests the Cryptomaster behemoth.

The diminutive, short-legged arachnid made its published debut late last month in the peer-reviewed scientific journal ZooKeys, where San Diego State University biologists who made the discovery first described it.

Like the daddy longlegs, which is commonly but mistakenly referred to as a spider, the Cryptomaster behemoth actually belongs to an order of arachnids called Opiliones, or harvestmen. Their single, fused body region most distinguishes them from true spiders, which have two main body parts.

The newly identified species was found to inhabit forested mountains and coastal areas of southwestern Oregon, in habitat near its closest relative, another short-legged harvestmen species with an equally outsized name - Cryptomaster leviathan.

Both species are rarely seen, often living under woody debris, but at 4 millimeters wide they are much larger than most of the other 4,000 species identified within their suborder, according to the ZooKeys paper.

That additional girth prompted a research team led by biologist James Starrett to dub their recent discovery a "new monster."

Starrett, who could not be reached on Wednesday, previously discovered several new trapdoor spider species in California, according to San Diego State University's website.

Photos of the Cryptomaster behemoth show an eight-legged, amber-colored creature with striations on its back and pincer-like extensions near its mouth.

(Editing by Steve Gorman and Sandra Maler)