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New species of trapdoor spider dwells near Barstow
33 total discoveries in genus is culmination of 10-year study
BARSTOW • For more than 10 years, Jason Bond, a professor at Auburn University and director of AU’s Museum of Natural History, has been researching Aptostichus — a genus of wafer trapdoor spiders found predominantly in Southern California. The research has culminated in the discovery of 33 new species — one not far from Barstow.
“A number of new species were collected for the first time by me or friends and colleagues,” Bond wrote in an email.
Aptostichus elisabethae, though, was not one of them. First collected in the early 1960s and deposited at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, it wasn’t until recently when Bond was able to look at it that the new species was described.
It lives near Pisgah Crater, a young volcanic cinder cone approximately 40 miles southeast of Barstow. Bond said he named it after his daughter, Elizabeth, because “the desert outside of Barstow is, like my daughter, absolutely beautiful and complex.”
Other new finds, published Dec. 19 in the journal ZooKeys, include Aptostichus barackobamai, Aptostichus pennjillettei and Aptostichus dorothealangeae — nods to the president, magician Penn Jillette and actress Dorothea Lange.
The trapdoor spider is named as such because it traps its prey by creating a burrow and then constructing a trapdoor with a silken hinge that covers the trapdoor, according to Bond. Reasons why areas around Barstow are conducive to their livelihood include: “Timing their breeding season with the winter rains, an ability to go for long time periods without eating and lighter pigmentation to help camouflage them against the sand,” Bond wrote.
Bond said he plans to continue studying spiders in this group, estimating that there are probably another 10 species or so left to discover in California. He also said, that due to his research, he’s gained an affinity toward the desert area that surrounds Barstow.
“I have spent a lot of time in the area looking for spiders,” he wrote, “and it has become one of my favorite localities.”