Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Hundreds of tiny Montserrat tarantulas hatch in zoo

By Jonathan WebbScience reporter, BBC News
12 August 2016

A clutch of about 200 Montserrat tarantulas has hatched at Chester Zoo - the first time this rare spider has been bred in captivity.

Very little is known about the species, found on just the one Caribbean island.

A dozen of the hairy brown animals were brought back by a zoo keeper in 2013, after observing them in the wild on multiple field trips.

Three years later, after much study and behavioural management, one female has produced 200 British-born baby spiders.

"It's kind of a race against time, whether you can synchronise the sexual maturity between individuals," said Chester Zoo's curator of lower vertebrates, Gerardo Garcia.

'Popping out of the earth'
Part of the problem is that male Montserrat tarantulas live for about 2.5 years at the most, whereas the females live much longer and develop much more slowly.

The few males Dr Garcia had collected, therefore, were a precious resource. There were nervous moments for the team when they started match-making.

As with many other invertebrates, those encounters were risky for the males.

"The female can take it as a prey, rather than a partner," Dr Garcia told the BBC. "There were a lot of sweaty moments."

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