GRANTS PASS, Ore. — Amateur cave explorers have found a new family of spiders in the Siskiyou Mountains of Southern Oregon, and scientists have dubbed them Trogloraptor — or cave robber — for their fearsome front claws …
Entomologists there say the spider — reddish brown and the size of a half dollar — evolved so distinctly that it requires its own taxonomic family — the first new spider family found in North America since the 1870s …
Coddington said caves tend to keep primitive species from evolving, because they are sheltered from climatic and other changes.
“Once you figure out a lifestyle, you can just do it for millions of years,” he said.
The Oregon spider’s species name — marchingtoni — honors Deschutes County sheriff’s Deputy Neil Marchington, who was on the first Western Cave Conservancy expedition in 2010 to inventory the critters in a cave on private land outside Grants Pass. A year later he led academy scientists to the site to collect live specimens.
“A lot of times, caves are very unique ecosystems, and what we find in there can be very special,” said Marchington from the jail in Bend where he works. “At other times, they can be completely normal.”
He said about a dozen of them collected bugs from the walls and ceiling of the cave and put them in vials of preservative, then sent them down to the academy.
“We don’t know exactly how they work yet,” Griswold said of the spiders. “We’ve seen these spiders alive. But we haven’t seen them eat anything yet. They are very shy.
The fact that caves are so well protected makes them ideal locations for scientific research, and not just spider-hunting. Caves also provide us with exceedingly detailed climate records going back tens of thousands of years or more. It’s that kind of data that gives us the context we need to truly understand what’s happening with our climate today.
Caves are too often often vandalized by idiots, polluted by golf course runoff, or completely filled in with cement so that we might have yet another cookie-cutter sprawldivision on the surface. Every time we allow that to happen, we are taking a chance on losing something that may have turned out to be priceless and irreplaceable.