Warning: If you are afraid of spiders, you may not want to keep reading. You also may not want to travel to Great Britain for a while. According to The Washington Post, roughly 200 baby tarantulas have burst from the Earth in Great Britain. While this may sound horrifying to someone who is afraid of spiders, the birth of these few hundred spider babies could help save this species of spiders as well as another rare species of frogs.
These 200 baby spiders are Montserrat tarantulas. These baby spiders are the first ever to be bred in captivity. BABW News reports very little is known about this elusive species of spider. In fact, the formal description of this spider is based on just one male specimen that was found nearly 100 years ago. Scientists, however, do know this particular spider serves as a food source to the mountain chicken frog – which is also native to the Caribbean island where the spider’s name originated from.
As the name suggests, the mountain chicken frog does, in fact, taste like chicken. This, unfortunately, caused the frog to become a delicacy on the island which threatened its survival. According to scientists, the last thing this frog needs is for its food source – these baby spiders – to die out.
For this reason, even individuals who are not so sentimental about the idea of 200 baby spiders bursting out of the ground can be delighted by the information as it means the poor mountain chicken frogs may stand a chance at living – if people will stop eating them.
The original goal behind breeding the Montserrat tarantulas at the Chester Zoo in England was to help expand the population of this spider breed. However, it is also going to provide scientists with the first real opportunity to observe this spider and learn more about it.
Hundreds of baby spiders just burst out of the ground — and zookeepers are delighted https://t.co/gaJOjaimMU— Rachel Feltman (@RachelFeltman) August 15, 2016
In the past three years, the zookeepers at this zoo have had the pleasure (or displeasure depending on how you feel about spiders) of keeping roughly a dozen of these spiders in captivity. By doing this, scientists were able to learn that the male spiders of this breed reach sexuality maturity and die faster than female spiders do. As a result, the scientists had a hard time matching up the life cycles of male and female spiders of this species in order to try to breed them. In fact, the researchers ended up having just three males of this species to work with.
“We know that males have a very short life span when compared with females and gauging their sexual maturity to select the best possible time to put them together for mating, is vital to the breeding process,” Gerardo Garcia, curator of lower vertebrates and invertebrates, said in a statement released by the zoo.
200 baby Montserrat tarantulas were born at the Chester Zoo—the first in the world to be born in captivity https://t.co/dkRWBiaGOX— Atlas Obscura (@atlasobscura) August 15, 2016
Every time the zookeepers introduced the male spider to a female for potential breeding, they had to hope the encounter would result in mating instead of the female eating the male. This, unfortunately, is something that commonly occurs across several different spider species. This happening is part of what causes so many spider breeds to dwindle.
According to The Washington Post, the three male spiders were successful in breeding with their mates. The researchers, however, became nervous because the three pregnant female spiders burrowed underground and all three of the male spiders died.
“They literally dig a burrow in the ground, and they’re gone,” Garcia told the BBC.
“They don’t feed, they don’t show up, we don’t know what’s going on. You just have to leave it for several months and see what happens.”
With months of anticipation swelling up, no one can blame Garcia and his team of colleagues for their delight when hundreds of baby spiders burst from the Earth. Researchers have confirmed the first 200 baby spiders did come from just one of the three pregnant spiders. So, it is very possible the researchers will see 200 or even 400 more baby spiders burst from the Earth.
The researchers have separated the 200 baby spiders into individual containers. There are hand-feeding them small insects as they grow. In a few years, when the time is right, the male spiders will be introduced to the breeding program.
Finally, scientists will have the opportunity to observe and learn about the life-cycle of this particular breed of spiders. Scientists are hoping that learning more about this species of spiders may be enough to help them find a way to save the spiders on their native island.
[Image via ThinkStock]