A brand new spider species was discovered in the Pine Rockland forest near Zoo Miami, zoo officials announced Wednesday.
The Pine Rockland Trapdoor Spider (Ummidia richmond) was first found back in 2012 by a zookeeper who was checking reptile research traps. Two years later, Dr. Rebecca Godwin of Piedmont College -- who was in the process of looking at this group of spiders related to tarantulas -- confirmed that the spider 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," said Frank Ridgley, Zoo Miami's Conservation & Veterinary Services Manager. "Venoms of related species have been found to contain compounds with potential use as pain medications and cancer treatments."
This type of spider is already likely imperiled, zoo officials said, since only about 1.5% of the pine rocklands outside Everglades National Park are left in Miami-Dade County.
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This type of species are habitat specialists and can live for decades in the same burrow for their entire life, and are known to be some of the longest lived spider species known.
Zoo Miami staff have found only a handful of males through the years and have yet to find a female of the species.