Sunday 23 October 2016

Delight for spider experts as zoo delivers rare clutch of prickly customers

Published 12/08/2016 | 15:06

One of the rare Montserrat tarantulas hatched at Chester Zoo (Chester Zoo/PA)
One of the rare Montserrat tarantulas hatched at Chester Zoo (Chester Zoo/PA)

Chester Zoo keepers have become the first in the world to successfully breed an unusual species of tarantula.

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After a clutch of around 200 of the rare Montserrat tarantulas hatched, it was hailed as a "momentous event" by invertebrate keepers who are hoping to discover more about the mysterious species.

The threatened Montserrat tarantula is native to the Caribbean island of Montserrat, but very little information is known about how the spiders live.

Now, new behavioural observations made for the first time by experts at the zoo have revealed crucial insights about the tarantulas which, prior to their breeding, had never before been seen in zoos or in the wild.

The adult tarantulas first arrived at the zoo three years ago and since then, the team at the zoo have been able to gather the knowledge that has enabled them to successfully breed the tiny tarantulas.

Dr Gerardo Garcia, curator of lower vertebrates and invertebrates at Chester Zoo, said: "Breeding these tarantulas is a huge achievement for the team as very little is known about them. It's taken a lot of patience and care to reach this point.

"It's successes like this which really highlight the work that zoos are doing behind the scenes to conserve a range of endangered species, including the smaller, less well-known species that contribute to the world's biodiversity."

Dr Garcia added: "Importantly, the skills and techniques the team has developed with this new breeding success will now be transferred to other threatened species."

Montserrat tarantulas were first formally described by science from a single male more than 100 years ago. Since then, a team of researchers have observed the tarantula as a prey item for another threatened species from the island, the mountain chicken frog.

Through its wildlife conservation campaign - Act for Wildlife - Chester Zoo is helping to save highly threatened species around the world from extinction.

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