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Scientists Discover a New Species of Spider

Always more to learn about our eight-legged friends.

The IMHO Series examines the intersection of technology and culture. The first book in the series looks as what it means now that our world has become so wired.

Illustration by Jon Krause

A team of scientists from the California Academy of Sciences, working with cave conservationists, discovered a completely new, relatively large spider in caves and forests of the Pacific Northwest. The Trogloraptor spider, whose name means "cave robber" for its cave home and spectacular, elongated claws, is about the size of a half dollar coin. According to the Academy’s team, which included Charles Griswold, Curator of Arachnology, Joel Ledford, postdoctoral researcher, and Tracy Audisio, graduate student, they spin primitive webs with only a few strands, and then hang beneath those webs from the cool, damp ceilings of the caves.

The Trogloraptor spider is evolutionarily special because it represents not only a new genus and

Claws of a Trogloraptor

species, but also a new family (Trogloraptoridae). Even for the species-rich insects and arachnids, to discover a new, previously unidentified family is rare. The true distribution of Trogloraptor remains unknown: that such a relatively large, peculiar animal could elude discovery until 2012 suggests that more may be lurking in the forests and caves of western North America.

“Our next step is to go back to the caves and watch the spiders in action,” says Charles Griswold. “We know so little about the spider’s behavior.” Meanwhile, Griswold and his team aim to learn by observing the unusual new species through collaboration with scientific colleagues.

The California Academy of Sciences is an international center for scientific exploration and education. The Academy’s staff of more than 100 Research and Field Associates are at the forefront of efforts to understand two of the most important topics of our time: life and its sustainability.


Academy Research Team: Joel Ledford, Charles Griswold, and Tracy Audisio

Visit the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park to watch scientists at work, exploring the secrets of the natural world. Research work in the Project Lab includes DNA sequencing of potentially new species like the Trogloraptor spider, scientific photography and illustration, and preparing birds and mammals for the Academy’s collection of over 26 million specimens.  

For more information visit calacademy.org.

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