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Spider that can live for decades discovered in South Florida

The zoo says the arachnid was first found in 2012 when a zookeeper was checking reptile research traps.
Credit: Zoo Miami

MIAMI — A South Florida zoo has recently been credited with discovering a new species of spider.

Zoo Miami announced that one of its staff members helped in identifying a new species of trapdoor spiders - the Pine Rockland Trapdoor Spider.

The zoo says the arachnid was first found in 2012 when a zookeeper was checking reptile research traps. After sharing a photo of the spider with the zoo's research department, staff determined it didn't match any records for a known species in the entire region. 

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A little more than two years later, and the same spider was found again. This time, it was sent to an expert for research. 

Dr. Rebecca Godwin of Piedmont College in Georgia was able to confirm that the spider was a previously undescribed species, the zoo said. Spiders like the one that was discovered are known to be the longest living spider species - habitat specialists that can live for decades in the same burrow. Zoo Miami says only a handful of male Pine Rockland Spiders have been found over the years.

About 1.5 percent of the pine rocklands outside of Everglades National Park are left in Miami-Dade County, leading researchers and the zoo to believe the species is already in danger. 

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"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.

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