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Newly discovered species of 'monster spider' is tiny, not a spider - and lives near Eugene

From the article "A new monster from southwest Oregon forests: Cryptomaster behemoth sp. n. (Opiliones, Laniatores, Travunioidea)" by James Starrett, Shahan Derkarabetian, Casey H. Richart, Allan Cabrero and Marshal Hedin. Images CC by 4.0. Link: http://bit.ly/Cryptomaster-behemoth

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Cryptomaster behemoth
The Story of Cryptomaster behemoth courtesy Marshall Hedin

EUGENE, Ore. - Here's the thing about the new species of "monster spider" discovered in Oregon, known as the Cryptomaster behemoth.

It's not a monster.

"Behemoth might be a bit of a misnomer being that it's only about 4 millimeters long," said Tobias Policha with the University of Oregon biology department.

And it isn't a spider.

"A lot of people think it's a spider and they also think it's somehow massive, like a dog or a bear," said Marshal Hedin, a professor of biology at San Diego State University who was part of the team that discovered the new species. "It's actually a harvestman, which is an arachnid."

Hedin said his team didn't set out to discover a new species.

They were looking for the Cryptomaster leviathan, a species of harvestman first documented near Gold Beach in 1969.

"Since 1969 literally fewer than 5 animals have been recorded, so it's clearly fairly rare," Hedin said.

In 2014, Hedin and his colleagues set out to sample a broader selection of southwest Oregon.

As they studied the morphology - the physical appearance of the specimens - and sifted through the arachnid DNA, they made a discovery: At sites on Brice Creek, Goodman Creek and other locales in Lane County, the team had found a harvestman previously unknown to science.

They named it the Cryptomaster behemoth.

The Internet took note.

"Because we entitled the paper 'A new monster', I guess we kind of thought that that might grab some media attention," Hedin said.

The Cryptomaster behemoth is harmless to people. It doesn't have venom sacks, Hedin said.

"I hope people are not afraid. There's no reason to be afraid," he said. "You should be more interested than afraid."

Hedin said the behemoths hide in woody debris and under logs in mature forests.

He urged people to get out and look for the creature themselves.

Policha wasn't part of the Cryptomaster research. But he said the discovery shows we still have more to learn about the natural world.

"We don't need to go to exotic or faraway places to discover new species," he said. "Even here in our backyards in western Oregon we can find undescribed things."

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