The Tarantula Species That's Named After Johnny Cash

Music and science have gone hand in hand since antiquity. ThoughtCo notes that Urania, the Muse of astronomy in Greek mythology, gave birth to the musician Linus. In other contexts the birth works in reverse, with music as the muse and scientific creativity as its brainchild. Perhaps the most famous example is Lucy, the nickname given to a member of the hominin species Australopithecus afarensis, according to the Natural History Museum at Tring. Discovered in 1974 in Ethiopia, Lucy was named after the hippy-trippy Beatles hit, "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds."

Sometimes an inspired scientist names an entire species after a musician. Live Science reports that paleontologists dubbed an extinct lizard species Barbaturex morrisoni, or "bearded lizard king" morrison, in honor of the the also-extinct "Lizard King" Jim Morrison. Researchers in Belgium named a "worm-like" crustacean Macrostylis metallicola, which not only pays tribute to Metallica but also alludes to the fact that the animal lives in an environment comprised of metallic elements, per

If someone were to name an animal after Johnny Cash, you might expect it to be the ostrich that beat him in a fight. But Cash's animal is a tarantula, and as crazy as it sounds, it's even more fitting than the music legend's feathered nemesis.

The tarantula in black

As Live Science details, the species Aphonopelma johnnycashi was discovered over the course of a comprehensive study geared at streamlining the tarantula taxonomy. Previously, scientists divided tarantulas into too many species because a combination of dramatic variations in tarantula size and limited differences in anatomy caused confusion. So a research team studied nearly 3,000 tarantulas and reclassified many of the 55 known species. By the end they had reduced the number to 29, including 14 previously undiscovered species. One of the fresh-faced arachnids brought the Man in Black to mind.

Large numbers of Aphonopelma johnnycashi reside near California's Folsom Prison, the inspiration for Johnny Cash's classic, "Folsom Prison Blues," and the place where he famously recorded a live album in 1968. The penitentiary's identity is so inextricably linked to Cash's musical legacy that the big house is also home to a museum that boasts Johnny Cash memorabilia and "exclusive rare photos of Johnny Cash striking bad boy poses near the walls," per Roadside America. Best of all, the tarantula is black just like the muse that inspired its name.