Newly discovered 'monster' spider isn't as horrifying as it sounds

There's a beast of a spider roaming the Oregon woods, but let's try to keep the fear factor in perspective.

Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser
2 min read
Cryptomaster behemoth
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Cryptomaster behemoth

It's actually kind of cute.

SDSU Terrestrial Arthropods Collection

I'm going to throw out a couple words for you to consider: "Cryptomaster behemoth." I'm going to tell you that's the name of a newly discovered spider found in Oregon in the US. What is your reaction? Are you imagining something of Australian proportions? Something the size of a dinner plate?

It's OK to let your imagination run wild for a moment. The title of the research paper alone is enough to give arachnophobes the willies: "A new monster from southwest Oregon forests: Cryptomaster behemoth." This type of spider is described as "notoriously difficult to find," so it's not surprising that it would have stayed hidden from scientific eyes for so long.

Researchers published the study on the new spider on January 20 in the journal ZooKeys, but it's been riding a slow burning rise in Internet popularity since then. The news generated some amusing Twitter messages:

The paper differentiates between the previously known Cryptomaster leviathan and the newly described Cryptomaster behemoth. The reserachers collected 77 Cryptomasters, primarily from mature pine forests. Genetic studies confirmed the existence of behemoth, so named for having a large body size in comparison to other closely related Travuniidae family harvestman spiders.

Here's where we get to the kicker. The "monster" spider only has about a 4 mm long body, literally making it a fraction of an inch big. Not so scary now, right?

There's good news for spider fans who are excited about the new Cryptomaster and its ilk. The researchers write that "many more species likely await discovery." Some day we may get a Cryptomaster embiggens or a Cryptomaster brobdingnagian.

(Via Oregon Live)