Remember When Johnny Cash Had A New Species Of Tarantula Named After Him?

Johnny Cash country music
Don Hunstein/ Johnny Cash Archives

Johnny Cash… singer, songwriter, country music legend… namesake of species of tarantula?

Perhaps best known for his concerts at various prisons, his Johnny Cash At Folsom Prison album, which contained his biggest jail themed hits “Folsom Prison Blues,” “Cocaine Blues,” and “25 Minutes To Go” is one of the biggest of his long and decorated career.

These performances projected Johnny into international superstar status, helping him gain a platform to promote the social issues most dear to him, prison reform and Native American rights among the highest, not to mention he inspired a young Merle Haggard (locked up in San Quentin at the time) to change his ways and pursue a music career for himself

It’s impossible to quantify the enormous impact Johnny Cash had on America at the time, however, it’s clear that his legacy has lived on well beyond his year.

But I would have never guessed even scientists, specifically arachnologists, would be inspired by the Man In Black.

Back in 2016, a group of researchers from Auburn University and Millsaps College in Mississippi published a study of 3,000 tarantulas from across the American Southwest, documenting everything from their physical characteristics to their DNA structure to categorize them in a more detailed way then ever before.

It turned out, despite the general population being very familiar with tarantulas from movies, the scientific community didn’t truly have a ton of data on the various species and subsects of the spider.

The data collected was then compared with an existing database held by the Auburn University Museum of Natural History. From this data collection and analysis, it was determined that 14 new Tarantula species would be required.

And one of those new species had quite a large population right near, you guessed it, Folsom State Prison. The spider also had a very dark coloration reminiscent of the the all-black attire worn by Cash, and since lead researcher Chris Hamilton himself is a member of the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma, the name just fit.

And on February 4th, 2016, the new Johnny Cash tarantula was born.

Aphonopelma johnnycashi was officially adopted as the name for that species of tarantula, and while I won’t be running out to California to get an up close look at one, it makes me happy that the legacy of Johnny Cash is still alive and well, even in the scientific world.

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