It's like something out of a horror movie, but it's very, very real.
The Chester Zoo in the United Kingdom just had something very exciting — and very icky — happen: about 200 rare Montserrat tarantulas have hatched after a very difficult and very tense mating process, the first time scientists have gotten the rare spider to breed in captivity. Scientists don’t know know much about the Montserrat tarantula, which is only found on a single island in the Caribbean after a zookeeper brought them back three years ago.
But now, the three females at the zoo have successfully reproduced. It wasn’t easy, as the males of this species live for just 2.5 years while the females live much longer and take longer to mature, making it tough to find males. Also, once the zoo had those males, it was a risky process mating them as the females can often decide to simply strike and kill them. But fortunately, it appeared the males successfully impregnated the females — after that, it was the waiting game.
The females suddenly disappeared after digging a deep burrow, not even emerging for food for several months. And then, magic: baby tarantulas started popping up all over the place, and you can view video of that event below.
“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 behaviour, reproduction and life cycle of the species,” the statement from the zoo reads. “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. 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 known species that contribute to the world’s biodiversity. Importantly, the skills and techniques the team has developed with this new breeding success will now be transferred to other threatened species.”