Feb 03, 2016 I Nancy Loyan Schuemann

A Monster Befitting the Name Cryptomaster Behemoth

Those suffering from arachnophobia beware! Monster spiders are lurking beneath logs, stones and the forest floor in Southwest Oregon. Scientists have recently discovered a new elusive daddy long-legs species, dubbed Cryptomaster behemoth for a reason --- It’s huge compared to others in the Laniatore suborder, the largest suborder of the arachnid order Opiliones (also known as Harvestmen because they emerge during autumn harvest season), with over 4,100 species.

Opiliones are often mistaken for spiders that actually belong to the Araneae order. These are not the familiar cellar spiders often called “daddy long-legs.” Laniatores actually have short legs. They are also relatively small in comparison to tarantulas and other arachnids but monsters within their order.

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Daddy Long-legs

Though bigger than its cousin, Cryptomaster leviathan, which is 0.15-inches wide (4 millimeters), C. behemoth is twice as big as most Laniatores. Thus, both species’ names are derived from Hebrew, the two large powerful beasts mentioned in the Book of Job in the Old Testament. Both come in small and large sizes. However, C. leviathan has two tiny erect spines pointing toward its penis whose purpose is unclear. Hmmm.

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The range of the Cryptomaster behemoth in Oregon

Here is what researchers wrote in a paper, which was published online January 20 in the journal Zookeys.

The basis for these two forms is unknown - the different forms can be found in    both sexes, in both species and from the same localities. Additionally, the two forms are not genetically divergent.

The species C. leviathan was discovered in 1969 in the coastal town of Gold Beach, Oregon. After 40 years, researchers found more of them in multiple locations, from the Coast Range northeast to the Cascade Mountains.

James Starrett, entomologist at the University of California, Riverside and colleagues at San Diego State University suspected that there might be other undiscovered Cryptomaster genus and went out in search of them. They found success, discovering the elusive C. behemoth.

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Forest spider web

The team extracted DNA from the legs of multiple Cryptomaster creatures from 14 locations in the Coast and Cascade Mountains of southern Oregon. They found that C. leviathan has little genetic diversity, though it lives in a wide range of habitats (extending across multiple mountain ranges), whereas C. behemoth has more genetic diversity and a more restricted range.

This research highlights the importance of short-range endemic arachnids for understanding biodiversity and further reveals mountainous southern Oregon as a hot spot for endemic animal species.

Cryptomaster behemoth could be the the star of a new horror film, the stage name of a WWF wrestler or the name of a heavy metal band!

Nancy Loyan Schuemann

Nancy Loyan Schuemann is a writer specializing in architecture, safes, profiles, histories and a multi-published fiction and non-fiction author and is Nailah, Middle Eastern dancer.

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