Chester Zoo is one of the biggest zoos in the UK — it sits on about 400 acres in Cheshire, England and was founded in 1931 from the private lizard collection of World War I vet George Mottershead.
It seems like a nice place, where typical zoo things like cotton candy and penguin acrobatics happen. Also, they have just bred an extremely rare tarantula, resulting in the birth of 200 more tarantulas! This is the first time this species of tarantula has been successfully bred by scientists, making it one of the biggest achievements in spider-related science since that pizza boy got bit on his high school field trip to the lab.
These lil guys are called Montserrat tarantulas, because they’re native exclusively (as far as we know so far) to the Caribbean island of Montserrat. Their primary predator at home is called the mountain chicken frog, which is a frog and not a chicken. The only reason that “chicken” is in the mountain chicken frog’s name is because some people who have eaten mountain chicken frogs say that they taste like chicken. Other than that, not much is known about these mysterious little spidies, but the Chester Zoo hopes to change that with the help of its freshly grown family.
In a release on the zoo’s website, lower vertebrates and invertebrates curator Dr. Gerardo Garcia wrote, “The data we’ve been able to gather and knowledge we’ve developed over the last three years since the adults first arrived has led us to this first ever successful, recorded breeding and hopefully these tiny tarantulas will uncover more secrets about the behavior, reproduction and life cycle of the species.”
During the breeding process, the scientists learned that the biggest problem with breeding Montserrat tarantulas is the differential life span between males and females. The males lived about 2.5 years, where females could live much longer. This made male spiders harder to come by, and the timeframe during which they could be bred extremely short. Garcia also told the BBC that the female spiders would sometimes get confused and think they were supposed to eat the male spiders. (Understandable.)
After a successful breeding, the Chester Zoo team had to wait for months while the spiders hid in their underground burrows. Eventually, 200 spiders crawled out of the ground without warning, which seems pleasant to witness if you’re into that kind of thing!
All the Earth’s creatures are beautiful, I will say diplomatically, and I’m glad these little miracles are alive even though they’ll soon be bigger and scarier.