Arachnophobes beware: Scientists discover ‘behemoth’ spider

© Kai Pfaffenbach
It seems that Ammon Bundy isn’t the only thing lurking in the forests of Oregon: Scientists have discovered the big daddy of the daddy longlegs, a spider dubbed the Cryptomaster behemoth.

The C. behemoth is a relative of the daddy longlegs suborder called the Laniatores. Until recently, the only representative of the Cryptomaster was a single species known as the Cryptomaster leviathan.

According to Live Science, the process that led to the discovery of the C. behemoth actually started in 1969 when the C. leviathan was first discovered Gold Beach, Oregon. However, in the 40 odd years that followed, the C. leviathan remained something of a mystery.

Named after a reclusive Biblical sea monster, the C. leviathan was not expected to introduce itself to scientists. However, what surprised many researchers was that it was found in multiple locations. In one case, the spider was spotted in the Cascade Mountain Range, some 360 miles (580 km) from Gold Beach, where it was first spotted.

Both Cryptomasters are known for their size. However, their 0.15-inch-wide body means that, while it is a behemoth compared to its relatives, both the C. behemoth and C. leviathan are still “relatively small compared to tarantulas or other arachnids,” Live Science reported.

James Starrett, an entomologist at the University of California Riverside, and his colleagues looked at the multiple locations where the C. leviathan had been reported and suspected that there could be more to the Cryptomaster genus than just the C. leviathan.

As Live Science explains, the discovery of the C. behemoth in Southwestern Oregon not only proved that the Cryptomasters were a larger genus then previously thought, but also shed light on the reclusive spiders. Both of them share unusually short legs for the Laniatores order, especially considering that they’re related to the daddy longlegs.

Another interesting trait of the Cryptomasters is that both species come in two forms: a larger one and a smaller one. According to Live Science, the purpose of the variation is unknown and looking at their DNA did not shed any light upon this mystery.

Reportedly, the DNA extracted from the legs of both species revealed odd information about the spiders. By testing multiple subjects from both species, it was determined that the C. leviathan lacked the genetic diversity of the C. behemoth. However, the C. leviathan has a wide range of habits than the C. behemoth. What this ultimately means for the spiders is yet to be determined, but the scientists involved with the project offer this takeaway:

This research highlights the important of short-range endemic arachnids for understanding biodiversity and further reveals mountainous southern Oregon as a hotspot for endemic animal species,” said Starrett in his study’s conclusion.

The research was published recently in ZooKeys journal.