New species of tarantula found in US named after singer Johnny Cash

The Mexican Red-kneed Tarantula is probably the best-known of the species.

A new species of tarantula discovered in the US has been named after country music legend Johnny Cash.

Aphonopelma johnnycashi was discovered in California near Folsom Prison - the correctional institution made famous in Cash's song Folsom Prison Blues, recorded in 1955.

The spider is one of 14 new tarantula species found in the US by scientists in the most comprehensive taxonomic tarantula study ever conducted.

The team spent more than a decade searching for tarantulas in locations ranging from scorching deserts to frigid mountains in the American south-west.

Overall, 3,000 species of the spider were looked at and the findings, published in the journal ZooKeys, revealed 29 US tarantula species, 14 of which were new to science.

The Mexican Red-kneed Tarantula is probably the best-known of the species. Credit: Berliner Verlag/Archiv / DPA/PA Images

We often hear about how new species are being discovered from remote corners of the Earth, but what is remarkable is that these spiders are in our own backyard. With the Earth in the midst of a sixth mass extinction, it is astonishing how little we know about our planet's biodiversity, even for charismatic groups such as tarantulas. >

Dr Chris Hamilton, Florida Museum of Natural History

The spiders ranged in size with some no bigger than a small coin and others, like Aphonopelma johnnycashi, with leg spans of six inches or more.

Their bite, though venomous and painful, is not considered dangerous.