Aphonopelma moellendorfi Hamilton

Hamilton, Chris A., Hendrixson, Brent E. & Bond, Jason E., 2016, Taxonomic revision of the tarantula genus Aphonopelma Pocock, 1901 (Araneae, Mygalomorphae, Theraphosidae) within the United States, ZooKeys 560, pp. 1-340: 184-187

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Aphonopelma moellendorfi Hamilton

sp. n.

Taxon classification Animalia Araneae Theraphosidae

Aphonopelma moellendorfi Hamilton  sp. n. Figures 98, 99


Male holotype (APH_0925) from N of Del Rio on Hwy 277, Val Verde Co., Texas, 29.488717 -100.907633 5, elev. 1190ft., 2006, coll. Dave Moellendorf; deposited in AUMNH. Paratype male (APH_0928) from Del Rio - Hwy 90 W of Lake Amistad, Val Verde Co., Texas, 29.618868 -101.104385 5, elev. 1406ft., 2006, coll. Dave Moellendorf; deposited in AMNH.


The specific epithet is a patronym in recognition of Dave Moellendorf, a friend and mentor to CAH. Moellendorf introduced CAH to the tarantula fauna of Texas and encouraged and fostered CAH’s early research on the genus Aphonopelma  . Moellendorf has also spent countless hours educating the public on the importance of spiders on our planet.


Aphonopelma moellendorfi  belongs to the moderatum  species complex and can be distinguished by a combination of morphological, molecular, and geographic characteristics. Nuclear and mitochondrial DNA identifies Aphonopelma moellendorfi  as a phylogenetically distinct monophyletic lineage (Figs 7-8), supported as the sister lineage to Aphonopelma gabeli  and closely related to Aphonopelma moderatum  . Immature and penultimate males of Aphonopelma moellendorfi  can be distinguished from Aphonopelma moderatum  and Aphonopelma gabeli  due to their overall phenotypic appearance (i.e., Aphonopelma moellendorfi  closely resemble Aphonopelma hentzi  ; D. Moellendorf, pers. comm.). Mature male Aphonopelma moellendorfi  can be distinguished from Aphonopelma anax  by the shape of their palpal bulbs. The significant measurement that distinguishes male Aphonopelma moellendorfi  from its closely related phylogenetic and syntopic species is M1. Male Aphonopelma moellendorfi  can be distinguished by possessing a larger M1/M3 (≥0.95; 0.95-1.00) than Aphonopelma gabeli  (≤0.94; 0.90-0.94); by possessing a smaller PTl/M1 (≤0.69; 0.60-0.69) than Aphonopelma armada  (≥0.73; 0.73-0.83) and Aphonopelma hentzi  (≥0.74; 0.74-0.88); and a smaller CL/M1 (≤1.31; 1.10-1.31) than Aphonopelma anax  (≥1.36; 1.36-1.63) and Aphonopelma armada  (≥1.36; 1.36-1.47). There are no significant measurements that separate male Aphonopelma moellendorfi  from Aphonopelma moderatum  . Females of Aphonopelma moellendorfi  are unknown at this time.

Description of male holotype

(APH_0925; Fig. 98). Specimen preparation and condition: Specimen collected live crossing road, preserved in 80% ethanol; original coloration faded due to preservation. Left legs I, III, IV, and left pedipalp removed for measurements and photographs; stored in vial with specimen. Right leg III removed for DNA and stored at -80°C in the AUMNH (Auburn, AL). General coloration: Generally black or faded to brown. Cephalothorax: Carapace 17.23 mm long, 15.48 mm wide; densely clothed with black/brown pubescence, with slight iridescence, appressed to surface; fringe covered in long setae not closely appressed to surface; foveal groove medium deep and straight; pars cephalica region rises gradually from foveal groove, gently arching anteriorly toward ocular area; AER slightly procurved, PER slightly recurved; normal sized chelicerae; clypeus straight; LBl 1.96, LBw 2.21; sternum hirsute, clothed with short black/brown, densely packed setae. Abdomen: Densely clothed in short black/brown pubescence with numerous longer, lighter setae interspersed (generally red or orange in situ); dense dorsal patch of black Type I urticating bristles ( Cooke et al. 1972). Legs: Hirsute; densely clothed with short, similar length black/brown setae, and longer setae dorsally. Metatarsus I slightly curved. F1 17.53; F1w 4.15; P1 7.25; T1 13.73; M1 13.11; A1 8.20; F3 14.27; F3w 4.52; P3 5.79; T3 11.18; M3 13.14; A3 7.48; F4 15.96; F4w 4.35; P4 5.88; T4 13.78; M4 16.62; A4 8.77; femur III is normal - not noticeably swollen or wider than other legs. All tarsi fully scopulate. Extent of metatarsal scopulation: leg III (SC3) = 67.3%; leg IV (SC4) = 40.2%. One ventral spinose seta on metatarsus III; five ventral spinose setae on metatarsus IV. The prolateral branch of the tibial apophyses possesses a very large megaspine that projects anteriorly. Coxa I: Prolateral surface a mix of fine, hair-like and thin tapered setae. Pedipalps: Hirsute; densely clothed in the same setal color as the other legs, with numerous longer ventral setae; one spinose seta at the apical, prolateral femur; one spinose seta on the prolateral patella; two spinose setae on the prolateral tibia; PTl 9.125, PTw 2.051. When extended, embolus tapers with a gentle curve to the retrolateral side near apex; embolus slender (i.e., more stout than hentzi  ), no keels.

Variation (5).Cl 15.05-17.56 (16.192 ± 0.51), Cw 13.27-15.48 (14.308 ± 0.39), LBl 1.65-2.04 (1.9 ± 0.07), LBw 1.84-2.28 (2.124 ± 0.09), F1 16.36-18.10 (17.338 ± 0.32), F1w 3.42-4.15 (3.81 ± 0.14), P1 6.31-7.25 (6.698 ± 0.17), T1 13.57-15.75 (14.396 ± 0.41), M1 13.11-15.27 (13.814 ± 0.42), A1 7.68-8.49 (8.126 ± 0.14), L1 length 57.15-64.29 (60.372 ± 1.25), F3 13.56-15.47 (14.28 ± 0.34), F3w 3.7-4.52 (4.034 ± 0.14), P3 4.84-5.79 (5.36 ± 0.18), T3 10.02-11.79 (10.972 ± 0.38), M3 13.11-15.48 (14.032 ± 0.45), A3 7.04-8.47 (7.678 ± 0.24), L3 length 49.71-56.88 (52.322 ± 1.34), F4 17.29-15.38 (16.23 ± 0.31), F4w 4.35-3.51 (3.846 ± 0.15), P4 6.02-5.14 (5.536 ± 0.17), T4 12.52-14.12 (13.38 ± 0.31), M4 16.04-18.88 (17.518 ± 0.54), A4 8.14-9.17 (8.616 ± 0.17), L4 length 58.64-64.39 (61.28 ± 1.15), PTl 8.6-9.175 (8.898 ± 0.12), PTw 2.051-2.67 (2.418 ± 0.11), SC3 ratio 0.571-0.785 (0.674 ± 0.03), SC4 ratio 0.341-0.481 (0.409 ± 0.03), Coxa I setae = thin tapered, F3 condition = normal.

Material examined.

United States: Texas: Presidio: Hwy 169, 29.938343 -104.034011 6, 3992ft., [APH_0948, 2006, 1♂, Dave Moellendorf, AUMNH]; Sierra Vieja Mtns, 13 miles west Valentine, 30.723313 -104.669391 4, 4127ft., [APH_0938, 2006, 1♂, Dave Moellendorf, AUMNH]; [APH_0969, 2006, 1♂, Dave Moellendorf, AUMNH]; Val Verde: Del Rio - Hwy 90 W of Lake Amistad, 29.618868 -101.104385 5, 1406ft., [APH_0928, 2006, 1♂, Dave Moellendorf, AMNH]; N of Del Rio on Hwy 277, 29.488717 -100.907633 5, 1190ft., [APH_0925, 2006, 1♂, Dave Moellendorf, AUMNH].

Distribution and natural history.

Aphonopelma moellendorfi  is presently known from only a handful of localities in southwestern Texas, along the border with Mexico from Del Rio west to the Sierra Vieja Mountains (Fig. 99), where they can be found inhabiting the following Level III Ecoregions: Southern Texas Plains and Chihuahuan Deserts. Aphonopelma moellendorfi  can be found in syntopy with a handful of other species across its distribution including Aphonopelma armada  , Aphonopelma hentzi  , and Aphonopelma moderatum  . The breeding season, when mature males abandon their burrows in search of females, seems to be limited to late spring and summer ( May–July). Extensive sampling throughout extreme West Texas and northern Mexico will be necessary to fully understand the distribution of this species.

Conservation status.

This enigmatic species is only known from a handful of localities in the United States so it would be premature to comment on its conservation status. Fieldwork in West Texas and northern Mexico is necessary to more fully understand the abundance and extent of this species.


Aphonopelma moellendorfi  males are morphologically similar to Aphonopelma gabeli  and Aphonopelma moderatum  , and lack the characteristic shiny copper or bronze carapace found in Aphonopelma hentzi  . But interestingly, while females of Aphonopelma moellendorfi  remain unknown, it should be noted that immature males closely resemble Aphonopelma hentzi  (D. Moellendorf, pers. comm., collected and raised immature males to maturity). Other important ratios that distinguish males: Aphonopelma moellendorfi  possess a larger L1/L4 (≥0.96; 0.96-1.00) than Aphonopelma gabeli  (≤0.95; 0.90-0.95) and Aphonopelma anax  (≤0.94; 0.88-0.94); by possessing a larger M1/F4 (≥0.81; 0.81-0.88) than Aphonopelma anax  (≤0.75; 0.69-0.75) and Aphonopelma hentzi  (≤0.77; 0.68-0.77). Certain morphometrics have potential to be useful, though due to the amounts of variation, small number of specimens, and the small differences between species, no other are claimed to be significant at this time (see Suppl. material 2). During evaluation of traditional PCA morphospace, males of Aphonopelma moellendorfi  separate from Aphonopelma armada  , Aphonopelma hentzi  , and Aphonopelma anax  along PC1~2, but do not separate from Aphonopelma gabeli  or Aphonopelma moderatum  . Interestingly, Aphonopelma moellendorfi  males separate from Aphonopelma anax  , Aphonopelma armada  , and Aphonopelma hentzi  in three-dimensional PCA morphospace (PC1~PC2~PC3), but do not separate from Aphonopelma gabeli  and Aphonopelma moderatum  . Females of Aphonopelma moellendorfi  are unknown at this time. PC1, PC2, and PC3 explain ≥96% of the variation in male analyses. Unfortunately, at this time we do not have photos of live specimens.