The Persian Gold Tarantula (Chaetopelma persianum), is a newly discovered fancy-pants arachnid, that was recently found in northwestern Iran. With glorious locks of woolly, golden hairs, this spider was announced to the world just in time for Tarantula Appreciation Day on August 8.
It all began when nature enthusiast Mehdi Gavahyan was taking a stroll when they spotted a wandering male tarantula. They photographed this adventurous spider and sent the photo to Dr Alireza Zamani – one of the authors of the paper that announced this species. The photo piqued his interest and he asked Gavahyan to team up with another nature fanatic to try and find more specimens to send him.
Unfortunately, only one single female specimen was collected. This female had a leg span of almost 9 centimeters (3.5 inches) – close to the diameter of a softball – and distinct features that allowed the scientists to confidently differentiate this specimen from other known Chaetopelma species. This specific spider was used to form the basis used in the species description.
Thankfully, due to citizen scientists, the authors were able to get photos of two other males, and they were taken close to the location of the new species. It is very probable that these belong to the new species, however, this cannot be confirmed until material is collected from both sexes.
The new species belongs to the genus Chaetopelma. This genus is relatively small and currently comprises of six species that are distributed in the eastern Mediterranean and Middle East, with one species in Cameroon. This new discovery has widened this distribution even further, by being the first record of this genus in Iran, along with being the third known species of tarantula in the country.
Chaetopelma tarantulas often live in burrows or within silk-lined chambers, typically constructed under boulders and large stones in wells and in exterior dry walls of old houses.
The Persian Gold tarantula is found in the mountainous regions of the northern Zagros Mountains, and is an obligate burrower. The specimen that was collected and used to describe the new species was found in a ground burrow that was self-made on sloped rocky ground. The new species was named Chaetopelma persianum as a homage to its location (Iran is historically known as Persia).
“Looking ahead, we believe that more comprehensive investigations employing integrative methods would greatly benefit our knowledge about the Chaetopelma spiders,” said the researchers in a statement. “Additionally, further collection efforts in lesser-sampled or completely unexplored regions, such as Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iraq, eastern Turkey and western Iran, could lead to the discovery of additional Chaetopelma species or records. These findings would be instrumental in gaining a more comprehensive understanding of the taxonomy and distribution of this genus.”
The study is published in the journal ZooKeys.