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New spider species identified in the Florida Everglades

The Pine Rockland Trapdoor Spider lives in the Florida Everglades and is a rare breed. It has only been spotted a handful of times since the 1920s and it was only recently that the intelligent arachnid got its name for the habitat it lives in, according to Rebecca Godwin, assistant professor of biology at the University of Piedmont.

These spiders likely only live in the southern Florida pine forest habitat, which is “highly endangered,” Godwin told CNN. Their homeland of pines growing on limestone outcrops has been slowly destroyed by mankind.

“Development, urbanization, land clearing, anything that destroys topsoil could potentially wipe out entire populations and especially for a spider that is in such a small range of really endangered habitats, you kind of risk lose the species together, ”Godwin said.

The spider is one of 33 new species from the Americas to be added to the genus Ummidia, which are trap spiders. Godwin and Jason E. Bond, professor of entomology at the University of California at Davis, co-authored the study, published in April in the journal ZooKeys.

“The fact that a new species like this can 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 we know. which remains to be discovered ”. Frank Ridgley, director of conservation and veterinary services at the Miami Zoo, said in a press release.

Finding and collecting enough examples of the spider has been tricky.

A zookeeper checking reptile research traps at the Miami Zoo took a photo of the large spider in 2012 and two years later another was found. The mysterious spider does not correspond to any recorded species, the zoo said in a press release.

The zoo sent the data to Godwin, who has been studying trap spiders for nearly a decade. Previous samples she had in museums were from the 1920s and 1950s, she said.

“It was really exciting for me,” Godwin said. “Even having only one or two specimens, I was already pretty sure it was a new species.”

The characteristics of male trap spiders help identify the species, she said. The Pine Rockland Trapdoor Spider is a black one and approximately one to 1.5 inches in diameter, including the legs. Males have an opalescent abdomen, she says.

“If one were to call the spiders beautiful, I find it to be a very magnificent spider,” said Godwin.

No female of this species has yet been found, Godwin said. The other females in the trapdoor spider group usually have a front end that looks like patent leather, she added.

Trapdoor spiders are related to tarantulas. They tend to be smaller, less hairy, their fangs point in a different way, and they share some physical characteristics with their tarantula cousins, Godwin said.

Even though large spiders can scare people off, Godwin said these trap spiders don’t come looking for you. Spiders live in such a small area and they burrow into the ground, living there for most of its life. Some female spiders in this group can live for more than 20 years.

Although they are poisonous – most spiders are – the venom of the Rockland pine spider is not “medically important,” Godwin said. Translation: The venom is not dangerous for humans.

Venom research could have interesting applications in humans, according to Ridgley.

New spider species identified in the Florida Everglades

“Venoms from related species have been shown to contain compounds that can be used as pain relievers and cancer treatments,” Ridgley said.

When Godwin talks about his work with spiders, she says she usually hears how many spiders a person has broken this week.

“I feel like working on the spiders, you spend a lot of time fighting the bad press,” Godwin said. “It’s an uphill battle to point out that these help organizations, at least. They do not carry any disease to transmit to humans, they are not aggressive and literally live underground.

Trapdoor spiders are known to create a doorway to their burrow and stay underground, Godwin said. They stick out their legs and catch small insects that pass by without having to leave their bunker. When in danger, they close their silk-spun door and repel intruders.

The Pine Rockland Trapdoor Spider and other “unknown diversity” before are what fascinates Godwin the most on our planet. She wants to continue studying spiders like this one, which lives in “endangered” habitat, before it’s lost, she said.

“I am constantly blown away by how little we know of what lives with us on the planet,” Godwin said. “There are so many species that are being lost, going extinct before we even know they ever existed.”


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