Zoo Miami helps discover new spider species in South Florida

SOUTHWEST MIAMI-DADE, FLA. (WSVN) - Staff members at Zoo Miami have been credited with the discovery of a new spider species in South Florida.

The arachnid called the Pine Rockland Trapdoor Spider was found in the critically endangered Pine Rockland forest surrounding Zoo Miami.

Zoo officials said the spider was first found by a zookeeper who was checking reptile research traps in 2012. The worker 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.

Then, over two years later, another spider was found and sent to experts for evaluation. The spider ended up with Dr. Rebecca Godwin of Piedmont College in Georgia, who determined the spider was part of 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,” said Frank Ridgley, 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.”

The spider, whose scientific name is Ummidia richmond, is part of the Ummidia genus. Zoo officials have so far only encountered a handful of males over the years. No female species have been found.

“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,” officials said.

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