Denver Museum of Nature & Science biologist David Steinmann has discovered two new species of daddy longlegs inside Colorado caves.
Sclerobunus steinmanni, named after Steinmann, was found in a rocky cave on City of Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks land. DNA studies show this species evolved for millions of years while slowly adapting to the underground environment. It is orange and yellow, and very different looking from the daddy longlegs most familiar to people.
Steinmann identified a second new species in the Cave of the Winds in Manitou Springs, living deep underground in total darkness. This species was named Sclerobunus speoventus, derived from the Latin words for cave and wind, and lives in parts of the cave seldom visited by people.
“Although Cave of the Winds has long served as a popular visitor destination in the Pikes Peak region, it is not surprising that new discoveries of life are being made in sections of the cave not open to the public,” said Rick Rhinehart, author of Colorado Caves. “Additional study of caves is critical to better understand our world and the species that live in unusual places.”
With assistance from Dr. Frank Krell and Dr. Paula Cushing, scientists at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, Steinmann has found more than 100 new invertebrate species in Colorado caves. Jeff Stephenson, Denver Museum of Nature & Science collections manager, added these new species to the Zoology Department’s arachnid collections in 2008. Steinmann, his wife Debbie, and their 11-year-old son Nathan frequently explore caves to find new life-forms, going where no one has ever looked before.
San Diego State University scientists Shahan Derkarabetian and Dr. Marshal Hedin recently named the new species of daddy longlegs in the journal PLOS ONE.
“Finding a new species does not require traveling to the rain forest. There is still so much to be discovered right here in America,” explained Steinmann.