MIAMI — A mysterious spider discovered nearly a decade ago by the Miami zoo was recently identified as a new species.
The zookeeper took a photo of the spider, shared it with the zoo’s conservation and research department and found that it did not match any existing records for a known species. Another, similar looking spider, was found about two years later and sent to experts for evaluation.
Dr. Rebecca Godwin at Piedmont College in Georgia was in the process of looking at this group of spiders, which is related to tarantulas, when the specimen came her way. She confirmed it was a new species called the pine rockland trapdoor spider, a type of trapdoor spider.
“Spiders of this type are usually habitat specialists and can live for decades in the same burrow for their entire life,” the zoo said. “They are known to be some of the longest lived spider species known. At this time, it has not been documented for 35 years anywhere else except the pine rockland fragments around Zoo Miami.”
Only a small portion of the pine rockland ecosystem remains in Miami-Dade County and wildlife officials believe the species to already be imperiled. While a few males of the species have been recovered over the years, researchers have yet to encounter a female.
“(We) are inspired that discoveries like this can still be made, even in the middle of a large developed region like the Greater Miami Area,” the zoo said.