Biologists, like all of us, are inspired and thrilled by art. But they, unlike the rest of us, occasionally discover new species of animals, and that allows them to pay odd tribute to the artists they love. So it is with Aphonopelma johnnycashi, forever known as the Johnny Cash tarantula.
This particular discovery is interesting even in context. It turns out that nobody had bothered to catalogue the various species of American tarantulas, so some American researchers set out to do just that, traveling around the American southwest and looking for the large, but generally harmless, arachnids, and in the process they discovered fourteen new species. One of those new species was an all-black tarantula found near Folsom Prison, so its name was probably as much fate as anything else.
Unlike their namesake’s public persona, though, and despite their reputation elsewhere, don’t expect a tarantula to kill someone, whether to eat them or just to watch them die. They’re generally shy, their bite is usually non-venomous, and they only attack humans when cornered or threatened. In other words, you leave it alone and it’ll leave you alone, which is usually a good policy for animals in the first place, but tarantulas in particular. And yes, adopting a male one and naming it Sue would be in incredibly poor taste.