In the lush heartland of the Chocó Biogeographic Region, known as the Colombian Pacific region, scientists have discovered four new tarantula species.
They unearthed a treasure trove of biological wonders during a recent expedition, illuminating our understanding of one of the world’s most intriguing biodiversity hotspots.
Despite its rich biodiversity, this region has remained relatively unexplored. This is especially true when it comes to the spider species living in the region. But that’s changing thanks to an extraordinary biological expedition at the Jardín Botánico del Pacífico (JBP) in Bahía Solano.
A team of devoted researchers led this bold expedition, focusing their efforts on the fascinating and diverse group of Mygalomorphae spiders.
This mysterious group of spiders includes tarantulas, trapdoor spiders, funnel-web spiders, tiny spiders that barely use silk, and bald-legged spiders that can attach substrates to their bodies. Predatory, mostly terrestrial, these spiders often have very specific geographic distributions and are frequently endemic.
The exploration resulted in the discovery of four incredible tarantula species. Among them is the Ummidia solana, a unique trapdoor spider, and three species of tarantulas: Euthycaelus cunampia, Neischnocolus mecana, and Melloina pacifica.
“These taxonomic breakthroughs mark the first time these genera have been recorded in the region, extending their known geographical distribution,” the researchers explained.
“Each species was carefully illustrated, described, and scientifically discussed, providing valuable insights into their morphological characteristics, taxonomy, and biogeography. Our study significantly contributes to the understanding of the region’s biological diversity, which is renowned for its extraordinary species richness and endemism.”
Now, let’s dive into the discoveries in more detail. Reflecting the beautiful landscapes and dense vegetation of the Colombian Pacific coast, researchers named the newly found entity Ummidia solana after the municipality where they discovered it. This marks the first record of the Ummidia genus within the Chocó Biogeographic Region.
The researchers named the entity Melloina pacifica after the Colombian Pacific region it inhabits. This is the first described species of the Melloina genus in Colombia.
Despite this genus’s tendency to thrive in diverse ecosystems, including caves, this particular discovery expands the known distribution of Melloina. It was previously only recorded in Venezuela and Panama.
Euthycaelus cunampia owes its name to Don José and Don Antonio, members of the Emberá indigenous community from Mecaná, Chocó. These individuals transitioned from hunters to guides. They inspired tourists and academics at the JBP, hence the naming of this species.
Remarkably, this marks the first published record of the Euthycaelus genus and the subfamily Schismatothelinae outside the Andean Region and Eastern Cordillera for Colombia.
Finally, the researchers named the entity Neischnocolus mecana after a township in Bahía Solano. It reflects the dedication of the Jardín Botánico del Pacífico community to preserving the region’s vibrant biodiversity. This species is the fourth described Neischnocolus in Colombia. Its discovery expands the known geographic range of the genus.
In conclusion, the researchers stated, “This groundbreaking study serves as a testament to the potential existence of undiscovered species and the need for comprehensive taxonomic research.”
This discovery boldly reminds us that diverse ecosystems of our world still hold biological mysteries waiting for us to uncover.
Tarantulas are a type of spider belonging to the family Theraphosidae. There are over 1,000 known species of tarantulas.
They are native to many warm climates across the world, including South America, Central America, the southwestern United States, Africa, southern Europe, Australia, and some parts of Asia.
Tarantulas prefer to live in dry, well-drained soils and are especially prevalent in desert and grassland environments.
Tarantulas are among the largest spiders, with body lengths that range from 2.5 cm to 10 cm or more. They have leg spans that can reach up to 30 cm in some species.
Despite their often-fearsome appearance, most species of tarantulas are not dangerous to humans. Their bites, while painful, are generally no more harmful than a typical bee sting.
Here are some key features and behaviors of tarantulas:
Tarantulas are usually hairy and have eight legs, like all spiders. They also have two additional appendages called pedipalps near their mouth, which they use for sensing their environment, capturing prey, and mating.
Tarantulas have two body sections. At the top is a combined head and midsection (cephalothorax), with an abdomen below. Their colors vary widely by species and can include black, brown, tan, or even more alluring colors.
Tarantulas are carnivorous predators and primarily feed on insects. However, larger tarantulas eat small lizards, mice, birds, and other small animals.
They do not spin webs to catch prey. Instead, they are ambush predators who pounce on their prey when it comes near.
All tarantulas are venomous. However, the venom of most species is not harmful to humans.
Tarantulas use their venom to paralyze their prey before consuming it. They inject their venom through their fangs, which are large and strong enough to break the skin of a human.
In addition to their venom, tarantulas have other defense mechanisms. Many New World tarantulas (species found in the Americas) have urticating hairs on their abdomen, which they can kick off when threatened. These tiny, barbed hairs can cause irritation and discomfort to potential predators.
Male tarantulas are typically smaller than females and have a shorter lifespan. After reaching sexual maturity, males will go in search of a female to mate with.
After mating, a female tarantula will lay anywhere from 50 to 2,000 eggs. She then encases her eggs in a silken egg sac. Depending on the species, the eggs will hatch in two to ten weeks.
Tarantulas have a relatively long lifespan compared to other spiders. Female tarantulas can live up to 30 years in captivity. Males usually live between 5 to 10 years.
Tarantulas periodically shed their exoskeleton. This is a process called molting, which allows them to grow and repair any damage. This can occur annually or more frequently, depending on the tarantula’s age and species.
While tarantulas are often feared due to their large size and venom, they are increasingly kept as peculiar pets, as they are typically docile towards humans.
As always with pets, it’s essential to fully understand and meet the needs of the particular species to keep them healthy and safe.