Mysterious, new tarantula-like spider identified in the Florida Everglades

An elusive spider related to the tarantula just joined the ranks of recognized spiders.The...

Posted: May 4, 2021 3:25 PM

An elusive spider related to the tarantula just joined the ranks of recognized spiders.

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

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

"Development, urbanization, land clearing, anything that destroys the topsoil could potentially wipe out whole populations and especially for a spider that occurs in such a small range of really threatened habitat, you kind of risk losing the species all together," Godwin said.

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

"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," Frank Ridgley, Zoo Miami Conservation & Veterinary Services Manager, said in a news release.

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

A zookeeper checking reptile research traps at Zoo Miami snapped a photo of the large-bodied spider in 2012 and two years later, another one was found. The mysterious spider didn't match any species on record, the zoo said in a press release.

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

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

The characteristics of the male trapdoor spiders are what help identify the species, she said. The Pine Rockland Trapdoor Spider is a black and about one to 1.5 inches across, including the legs. The males have an opalescent abdomen, she said.

"If one were to call spiders beautiful, I find it a very gorgeous looking spider," Godwin said.

No females of this species have yet to be found, Godwin said. 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 a different way and they share some physical features with their tarantula cousins, Godwin said.

Even though large spiders can freak people out, Godwin said these trapdoor spiders are not coming to get you. The spiders live in such a small area and they burrow into the ground, living in it for most of its life. Some female spiders of this group can live to be more than 20 years old.

While they are venomous -- most spiders are -- the venom of the Pine Rockland Trapdoor Spider is not "medically important," Godwin said. Translation: The venom isn't dangerous to humans.

Research on the venom could yield interesting applications to humans, according to Ridgley.

"Venoms of related species have been found to contain compounds with potential use as pain medications and cancer treatments," Ridgley said.

When Godwin talks about her work with spiders, she said she typically hears how many spiders a person has smashed that week.

"I feel like working on spiders, you spend a lot of your time just fighting bad press," Godwin said. "It's an uphill battle to point out these are helping organisms, if anything. They don't carry any diseases to give to humans, they are not aggressive and literally live underground."

Trapdoor spiders are known for creating a door to their burrow and staying underground, Godwin said. They stick out their legs and grab small bugs scampering by without having to leave their bunker. When in danger, they shut their silk-spun door and ward off intruders.

The Pine Rockland Trapdoor Spider and other previously "unknown diversity" are what fascinate Godwin the most about our planet. She wants to keep studying spiders like this one, who lives in a habitat "in peril," before that's lost, she said.

"I'm continually blown away about how little we know about what is out there living on the planet with us," Godwin said. "There are so many species getting lost, going extinct before we even knew they ever existed."

Huntsville
Clear
65° wxIcon
Hi: 69° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 65°
Florence
Clear
69° wxIcon
Hi: 70° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 69°
Fayetteville
Partly Cloudy
67° wxIcon
Hi: 68° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: 67°
Decatur
Partly Cloudy
67° wxIcon
Hi: 69° Lo: 49°
Feels Like: 67°
Scottsboro
Clear
65° wxIcon
Hi: 68° Lo: 47°
Feels Like: 65°
WAAY Radar
WAAY WAAY-TV Cam
WAAY Temperatures

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 530011

Reported Deaths: 10946
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson763591519
Mobile40875804
Madison34676503
Tuscaloosa25717451
Montgomery24308585
Shelby23389248
Baldwin21093307
Lee15844169
Calhoun14481313
Morgan14281279
Etowah13813353
Marshall12203222
Houston10553280
Elmore10036205
Limestone9952150
Cullman9647193
St. Clair9634239
Lauderdale9413241
DeKalb8821185
Talladega8210175
Walker7222277
Autauga6914108
Jackson6803111
Blount6645136
Colbert6291134
Coffee5503118
Dale4826111
Russell440038
Chilton4263111
Franklin425482
Covington4120117
Tallapoosa4006152
Escambia393276
Chambers3559123
Dallas3544151
Clarke350861
Marion3111100
Pike310177
Lawrence299898
Winston273772
Bibb260463
Marengo249164
Geneva248777
Pickens233760
Barbour230757
Hale222577
Butler215869
Fayette212062
Henry188744
Cherokee184345
Randolph179941
Monroe177040
Washington167039
Macon158650
Clay155956
Crenshaw151957
Cleburne148741
Lamar141834
Lowndes138553
Wilcox127029
Bullock123041
Conecuh110129
Perry107526
Coosa107128
Sumter104332
Greene92334
Choctaw60424
Out of AL00
Unassigned00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 852072

Reported Deaths: 12245
CountyCasesDeaths
Shelby955251616
Davidson89317933
Knox50606634
Hamilton44219493
Rutherford43026434
Williamson27986217
Sumner23978349
Montgomery20232225
Wilson18779233
Out of TN1839297
Unassigned17048134
Sullivan16760294
Blount15486193
Bradley15010149
Washington14582245
Maury13493172
Sevier13377175
Putnam11376175
Madison11164242
Robertson9755131
Anderson8758172
Hamblen8604173
Greene7864155
Tipton7349103
Coffee6903121
Dickson6835110
Cumberland6726132
Carter6628158
Gibson6524145
McMinn650698
Bedford6502128
Roane6281105
Jefferson6198124
Loudon612469
Hawkins6050107
Lawrence593087
Monroe583795
Warren554881
Dyer5423106
Franklin514690
Fayette506177
Cheatham454755
Obion453896
Cocke449699
Lincoln435263
Rhea434375
Marshall418658
Campbell415463
Weakley412564
Giles3995100
Henderson378876
White363270
Macon361778
Carroll361483
Hardin357167
Hardeman351864
Lauderdale318544
Henry317976
Claiborne317773
Marion312547
Scott311645
Overton300861
Wayne296134
Hickman283846
McNairy281654
DeKalb279554
Smith277439
Haywood271162
Grainger262550
Trousdale250022
Morgan249739
Fentress241347
Johnson240839
Chester214351
Bledsoe214011
Polk207624
Crockett203448
Unicoi203449
Cannon192031
Union190534
Humphreys179526
Grundy179234
Lake170326
Sequatchie169729
Benton165940
Decatur158639
Lewis158126
Meigs138825
Stewart132428
Jackson131936
Clay110131
Houston109333
Perry106628
Moore101017
Van Buren84623
Pickett75924
Hancock58912

Community Events