It’s been a while since we dropped some of nature’s creepy-crawlies on you, hasn’t it? I know you miss that, but this story might help make up for it.
This story begins in Mexico back in 2013, during an expedition into the Sierra Cacachilas range in the Baja Peninsula. While searching a grotto, Michael Wall and Jim Berrian — researchers from the San Diego Natural History Museum — stumbled upon the moults (shed exoskeletons) of an arachnid species they had never encountered before… a spider they estimated to be “as wide across as a softball.”
The discovery led the pair to investigate further, entering deeper and darker spaces such as caves and mine shafts in search of living specimens.
“This is the type of spider that a lot of people would shriek and run from,” Wall told the Los Angeles Times — though Berrian describes it as “really pretty.”
They finally encountered nearly two dozen live specimens of the tarantula-sized arachnids — which local experts also claimed never to have seen before. They brought back eight of them, and have now officially catalogued the species as Califorctenus cacachilensis, and recently documented their findings in the journal Zootaxa.
“Generally, new species discovered are itty-bitty things that people don’t pay attention to,” Wall told the Times, “so given the size of this spider, that was surprising.”
Entomologist and arachnid expert Maria Jimenez confirmed that Califorctenus cacachilensis is a close relative to the deadly Brazilian wandering spider, but Berrian claims this species’ venom is probably not lethal to humans — and he found out the hard way, when one actually bit him. He claims it wasn’t that big of a deal.
“It was like being poked by a cactus spine,” Berrian said.