Haunt of Hikers, Divers, and the Giant Spider Califorctenus of the Cacachilas
Situated between La Paz and El Sargento in Southern Baja
Before the 2017 announcement that a new genus of giant wandering spider was discovered there in an abandoned mine shaft, I had never heard of the Cacachilas Mountains, located in a relatively out of the way corner of Baja California Sur, the second-least populated state in Mexico.
As it turns out, the nearby sea coast is a popular place for scuba divers. And the Cacachilas themselves offer an expansive sunny landscape for hikers and burro riders who want to get away from it all and commune with some the wildlife. But don’t worry, the spider isn’t that venomous. And since it had gone undetected by science all these many centuries, it is safe to say you will likely never see one outside of a zoo, or perhaps an abandoned mine shaft.
As reported in the scientific journal Zootaxa, this spider also represents a newly discovered genus.
Allow me introduce you to Califorctenus cacachilensis (Cteninae, Ctenidae, Araneae), the giant spider of the Sierra Cacachilas.
OK, the arachnid in question measures about four inches across, with a body about one inch long. But compared to most spiders in the world, that qualifies as a giant to scientists. And it would seem that way to most anyone who felt one running up their leg, or had an encounter with its furry fangs.
In fact, this new species of wandering spider is reminiscent of the infamous Brazilian wandering spider, among the most venomous arachnids in the world. Also known as the banana spider, newspaper reports of my childhood wherein Brazilian wandering spiders hitchhiked to the USA amongst banana bunches, made me extremely wary of my mother’s grocery bags.
However, you would have go to the mountain caves at the extreme tip of Baja California to find this new creepy crawler, as that is where they were discovered, doing their wandering in the dark of night, in search of prey. But one reason this new spider has been declared the first species of a newly discovered genus is that it is not as venomous as its poisonous cousins from points father south.
While new species of spiders and insects are discovered all the time, it is rare for anything so conspicuously large to be found new to science these days.
You can read more about the discovery of this new spider at Smithsonian.com (since Zootaxa costs money to read and is rather dry in the telling.)