The Keepers in the Tropical House at Newquay Zoo are delighted by the arrival of a new spider species, with one male and two female Hambantata Parachute Spiders (Poecilotheria pederseni). While the male of the species is about the size of an average tarantula, the female can grow up to 10 inches in diameter – scary stuff if you are arachnophobic!

Parachute spiders are an aboreal (tree-dwelling) species that have been observed ‘floating’ to the ground from trees (as if attached to a parachute), to escape predators or disturbance – hence the name. They are also known to jump from tree to tree if disturbed, and their natural markings provide excellent camouflage in a jungle habitat. They are venomous, capable of inflicting a painful bite, and can move very fast – even the most spider-friendly keepers plan to keep their distance from these new eight-legged residents!

These spiders are native to the Hambantota district, in the Yala region of Sri Lanka. They are recognised as endangered by conservation scientists, due to habitat degradation and loss, and have been petitioned to be included on the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) Red List (awaiting classification). This particular species is part of the Poecilotheria family of spiders which already includes one of the Worlds’ largest species of spider, Poecilotheria rajaei, also native to Sri Lanka and just discovered in April of this year.
The Keepers are hoping that these new arrivals will create a breeding colony, and their behaviour will be observed as part of a scientific research project.
Researcher Wesley Flower said ‘I plan to research paternal behaviour specifically, and will publish the findings. It is beneficial for the Zoo to keep and promote this species and genus as there is very little known about them - research and careful husbandry will enhance breeding success. The spiders can be used in educational initiatives, and to promote captive breeding for conservation, knowledge gained can also be shared with other organisations’.

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