MIAMI, Fla. – Florida’s population of creepy crawlers just got a new addition — sort of.
Zoo Miami announced Friday in a news release that a member of its staff had helped to identify a new species of trapdoor spider, the Pine Rockland Trapdoor Spider — also known as Ummidia richmond by the scientific community.
According to the zoo, the spider was first spotted in 2012 by a zookeeper who was checking reptile research traps in the endangered pine rockland forest that surrounds the zoo. The keeper shared a photo with the conservation and research department at the zoo, but it did not match any existing records for identification.
More than two years later, another specimen was found and shipped out to the experts to learn more about the unidentified arachnid, according to the release. The spider eventually wound up with Dr. Rebecca Godwin, of Piedmont College in Georgia, who was looking at this group of spiders, which are related to tarantulas.
The doctor was able to confirm that this was a previously undescribed species, according to the zoo. The release said that zoo staff has only found a handful of these spiders in the small portion of pine rockland forest around the zoo and all of them have been males. A female of the species has yet to be found.
According to the zoo, only about 1.5% of the pine rocklands are left in Miami-Dade County — outside Everglades National Park — and the spider has only ever been spotted in the area around the zoo itself, leading experts to believe its population may be in danger.
“The fact that a new species like this could be found in a fragment of endangered forest in the middle of the city underscores the importance of preserving these ecosystems before we lose not only what we know, but also what is still to be discovered,” said Frank Ridgley, DVM, Zoo Miami Conservation & Veterinary Services Manager.
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