Miami zoo discovers new venomous tarantula

The Pine Rockland Trapdoor Spider.

Scientists have discovered a new species of venomous tarantula that can live for two decades in — where else? — Florida.

The Pine Rockland trapdoor spider, Latin name Ummidia richmond, was first spotted on the grounds of Zoo Miami in 2012, but it wasn’t until this year that researchers identified it as an entirely new species.

“They have a rough carapace on their front half and a silvery-grey abdomen with a light-colored patch on top. They’re really quite beautiful spiders,” Dr. Rebecca Godwin, an assistant professor of biology at Piedmont College, told the Daily Mail.

Godwin identified the spider as a new species in a study published earlier this month. 

Its bite to a human would be about as painful as a bee sting, experts said.

“Spiders like this often rely on their size and strength to subdue their prey, and the venom often acts to help breakdown and liquefy the insides of their prey,” Zoo Miami conservation chief Frank Ridgley told the Daily Mail.

The Pine Rockland Trapdoor Spider hides in burrows and pounces when prey comes near.
Zoo Miami

The male Pine Rockland spider is roughly the size of a quarter, and the female is two to three times larger. The arachnids hide in burrows under their namesake trap door and pounce when prey — insects and other small invertebrates — saunters by.

Pine Rocklands live for roughly two decades.

“Similar species are ambush predators. They create a web burrow down into soft and sandy substrate with a hinged door at the surface,” Ridgley said. “They spend their entire lives in that same burrow, waiting for prey to come past their trapdoor, then they lunge out from their camouflaged lair to grab their prey.” 

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Males mature over seven years then leave their dens to find a mate, after which they die.

Crowds of people in lines going to Zoo Miami.
Researchers believe little of the spider’s natural habitat exists outside of Everglades national park.
Alamy Stock Photo

Godwin believes the spiders that were found by Miami zoo staff were “wandering males.”

The biologist is worried about the species’ future.

“It is likely that this species is limited to this small area of threatened habitat and subsequently could be threatened itself,” she said.

The environment she described as the Pine Rockland’s habitat is disappearing, and little of it exists outside Everglades national park. 

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