OREGON – Arachnophobes turn away now.
A new “monster” species of daddy longlegs is showing itself in southwestern Oregon, according to new research published in the peer-reviewed journal ZooKeys.
— ZooKeys (@ZooKeys_Journal) January 26, 2016
Its scientific name is Cryptomaster behemoth and it was discovered in the state’s mountainous regions, the paper reports, spanning from the Coast Range to the western Cascade Mountains.
Cryptomasters are short-legged harvestmen — a type of anthropod that eats other anthropods — with large hanging appendages. Like spiders and scorpions, they are arachnids or joint-legged anthropods.
They may be frightening to look at, but this species is harmless to people, researchers told CNN. Cryptomasters live under woody debris, waiting to capture their prey. That’s how these arachnids got their name — from their ability to stay hidden.
Though the 0.15-inch-wide body of the creature is relatively small compared to that of tarantulas or other arachnids, this daddy longlegs towers over other creatures in its Laniatores suborder. As a result, scientists named the species leviathan, after the serpentlike sea creature that prowls the deep in the Bible.
Biology professor Marshal Hedin from San Diego State University received a grant from the National Science Foundation to study the Cryptomaster behemoth. But it’s just one part of a larger group Hedin and his team are studying.
“This part is about discovering diversity and describing it,” Hedin told CNN.
The hunt for these “rare” arachnids spanned several states in the Pacific Northwest. Hedin and four other researchers drove around California, Oregon and Washington during the summer of 2014 to see if they could track down other types of Cryptomasters.
But the discovery of the Cryptomaster behemoth was set in motion decades ago.
Scientists first came across the new “monster” arachnid’s cousin Cryptomaster levianthan in 1969 in Gold Beach, Oregon.
By comparing DNA strands in this study, lead researcher James Starrett said his team was able to discern the genetic differences between the levianthan and the behemoth.
“If you were to hold the two in your hand, you might not be able to tell them apart,” Starrett said.
This could be the start of more species discoveries in the region. Researchers believe there are more species of arachnids that have yet to be recognized.
“You don’t have to go somewhere exotic, like the Amazon, to find something that hasn’t been discovered,” Starrett said. “With these tools, you can find something not discovered right here in the Northwest.”