Museum Blog

Two new arachnid species named for Museum scientist

Posted 9/16/2015 12:09 AM by Paula Cushing | Comments

Dr. Paula Cushing, the Museum’s Curator of Invertebrate Zoology, has spent her career studying spiders and their relatives. In honor of her work, two colleagues have named arachnids after her.

A newly discovered fossil camel spider (an arachnid in the order Solifugae) was named Cushingia ellenbergeri by Jason Dunlop and colleagues in the journal Cretaceous Research. The species was named “in recognition of [Dr. Cushing’s] important contributions towards camel spider biology and systematics.”

Cushingia Ellenbergeri Photo

Cushingia ellenbergeri gen, the first camel spider from Cretaceous Burmese amber.

In the scientific journal Zootaxa, Robert Raven named a new species of ant-mimicking spider Kolora cushingae “in honor of Dr. Paula Cushing, for her work on ant mimicry in spiders.”

Kolora Cushingae Photo Female

Kolora cushingae from Queensland, Australia.

How are new species identified?

Step 1: Discover
Cushing and her team search for a new species of spider that is reported to live in ant nests.

Step 2: Compare
Specimens must be compared with known species. In this photo, Brent Hendrixon examines a spider.

Step 3: Record
Document the characteristics of the new species. These are drawings of Hemerotrecha kaboomi, a species of camel spider described in 2008.

Step 4: Publish
Descriptions of new species must be published in a scientific journal.

Museum scientist publishes first evolutionaray tree for camel spiders

Dr. Paula Cushing and her colleagues recently published the first phylogeny (evolutionary tree) showing the relationships among camel spiders in the family Eremobatidae.

Camel spiders live in desert and semi-desert habitats around the world. They are important predators of insects and other arthropods, yet little is known about their biology.

Cushing, her students, and her colleagues have been leading the way in researching this group of arachnids for the last 17 years. Their phylogeny will provide a foundation for future research on this bizarre group of animals.


Eremobatidae Phylogeny

 Published in the journal Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, this phylogeny shows relationships among camel spiders in the family Eremobatidae and the order Solifugae.





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