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New Spider Family With Claws Discovered by Amateur Cave Explorers

Aug 18, 2012 04:19 AM EDT

A new family of spiders with claws have been discovered by a group of amateur cave explores while on an expedition in Siskiyou Mountains of Southern Oregon.

Scientists have claimed that a new family of spiders that were discovered by a group of cave explorers belong to the Trogoloraptor family because of their front claws. The spiders were found in the Siskiyou Mountains of Southern Oregon and have been sent to the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco for further analysis. The academy is said to have the largest collection of spiders.

Entomologists claim that the evolution of this reddish brown spider has been so distinctive that it requires its own taxonomic family - "the first new spider family found in North America since the 1870s."

"It took us a long time to figure out what it wasn't," said Charles Griswold, curator of arachnids at the academy. "Even longer to figure out what it is. We used anatomy. We used DNA to understand its evolutionary place. Then we consulted other experts all over the world about what this was. They all concurred with our opinion that this was something completely new to science."

"It's a good example of how science works - professional and citizen scientists share information," he added.

Jonathan Coddington, curator of arachnids at the Smithsonian Institution and associate director for science at the National Museum of Natural History also agreed that this family of spiders are very distinctive and has never been seen before.

"This is really a distinct event," he said. "To walk out in the woods and find an example of an ancient lineage that no one has ever seen before is special."

Norman I. Platnick, curator emeritus of spiders at the American Museum of Natural History said the importance of this discovery is similar to the discovery of a new dinosaur to paleontologists.

"Because it belongs to one of the more primitive groups of true spiders, it has the potential to change many of our current ideas about the early evolution of spiders," he said. "But it is better than a fossil, because we can study the entire organism, along with its behavior and physiology, not just those aspects that happen to have been fossilized."

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