MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Miami already has invasive snakes and iguanas and now it has a brand new species of spider, and it’s a large spider too.
The spider was discovered by Zoo Miami staff in the critically endangered pine rockland forest surrounding the Zoo in Southwest Miami-Dade.
The Pine Rockland Trapdoor Spider (Ummidia richmond) was first found by a zookeeper who was checking reptile research traps in 2012. The zookeeper shared the photo of the spider with the Zoo’s Conservation and Research Department for identification, but it didn’t match any existing records for known species in the region.
More than 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, and making detailed classifications and descriptions of the members of this Genus Ummidia found in North America. Dr. Godwin confirmed that it was a previously undescribed 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. Venoms of related species have been found to contain compounds with potential use as pain medications and cancer treatments,” said Frank Ridgley, DVM, Zoo Miami Conservation & Veterinary Services Manager.
Spiders of this type are usually habitat specialists and can live for decades in the same burrow for their entire life. 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 handful of spiders have been found through the years and none of them were female.
Considering only about 1.5% of the pine rocklands outside Everglades National Park are left in Miami-Dade County, it is likely that this endemic and elusive spider is already imperiled.