MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – There’s a new species of spider in the world, and it was discovered first by none other than a Zoo Miami zookeeper.
According to Zoo Miami, The Pine Rockland Trapdoor Spider (Ummidia richmond) was first found in the critically endangered Pine Rockland forest surrounding Zoo Miami by a zookeeper who was checking reptile research traps back in 2012. When the zookeeper shared the photo of the spider with the Zoo’s Conservation and Research Department for identification, it didn’t match any existing records for known species in the region.
Over two years later, another spider was found and sent out to experts for an evaluation. Eventually, it made its way to Dr. Rebecca Godwin of Piedmont College in Georgia who was in the process of looking at this group of spiders, which are related to tarantulas.
Godwin confirmed that it was a previously non-described spider species.
“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,” explains Frank Ridgley, DVM, Zoo Miami Conservation & Veterinary Services Manager. “Venoms of related species have been found to contain compounds with potential use as pain medications and cancer treatments.”
Spiders of this type are known to be some of the longest lived spider species known.
According to Zoo Miami, spiders of this type have not been documented for 35 years anywhere else except the Pine Rockland fragments around Zoo Miami. Zoo Miami staff have only found a handful of males throughout the years, and a female of the species has yet to ever be found.
Unfortunately, according to Zoo Miami, as only 1.5% of the Pine Rocklands outside of Everglades National Park are left in Miami-Dade County, it is likely that this spider species is already imperiled.