A group of cave explorers and scientists have made a rare discovery: an entirely new taxonomic family of spider in the caves of southern Oregon.
Only two other spider families (the taxonomic group above both genus and species) have been found since 1990, and this is the first newly discovered, native one uncovered in North America since 1890, said California Academy of Sciences researcher Charles Griswold, lead author of the study that described the species.
So far, the family consists only of the one species described, which the researchers named Trogloraptor marchingtoni. The species is named after Neil Marchington, a member of the Western Cave Conservancy, who first discovered the spider. The genus name, Trogloraptor, means "cave robber."
It's an apt name for a spider with unique hooks, or claws, on its legs, which the researchers believe are used to snatch flying insects, like midges, out of the air. With its legs outstretched, the spider measures up to 3 inches (8 centimeters) long.
"They're biggish," Griswold said. "But when you're in a cave and it's dark and there's only the beam of your head lamp, they look much bigger. It's quite astonishing to see them hanging from a few threads."
Griswold and his colleagues think that the newly discovered spiders hang from the underside of caves on simple webs, waiting to snatch a meal with their astonishing sicklelike legs.LINK