Monday, February 1, 2016

A new daddy longleg: Cryptomaster behemoth

The Cryptomaster daddy longlegs belong in the largest and incredibly diverse harvestman suborder, called the Laniatores, which are characterized by having relatively short legs and preference for hiding underneath logs, stones and leaf litter in tropical and temperate forests. Typical for many of these well over four thousand species is that they might inhabit very restricted geographic regions and yet be strikingly diverse.

The genus was until recently represented by a single species, Cryptomaster leviathan. Bearing the name of the huge notorious Hebrew monster Leviathan, it won its name because of its excessive size when compared to its relatives within its family.

Following this trend, the new species was named Cryptomaster behemoth after another large monster known from the Book of Job.

For the experts: The monotypic genus Cryptomaster Briggs, 1969 was described based on individuals from a single locality in southwestern Oregon. The described species C. leviathan Briggs, 1969 was named for its large body size compared to most travunioid Laniatores. However, as the generic name suggests, Cryptomaster are notoriously difficult to find, and few subsequent collections have been recorded for this genus. Here, we increase sampling of Cryptomaster to 15 localities, extending their known range from the Coast Range northeast to the western Cascade Mountains of southern Oregon. Phylogenetic analyses of mitochondrial and nuclear DNA sequence data reveal deep phylogenetic breaks consistent with independently evolving lineages. We use discovery and validation species delimitation approaches to generate and test species hypotheses, including a coalescent species delimitation method to test multi-species hypotheses. For delimited species, we use light microscopy and SEM to discover diagnostic morphological characters. Although Cryptomaster has a small geographic distribution, this taxon is consistent with other short-range endemics in having deep phylogenetic breaks indicative of species level divergences. Herein we describe Cryptomaster behemoth sp. n., and provide morphological diagnostic characters for identifying C. leviathan and C. behemoth.

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