A recently identified tarantula, the Persian Gold Tarantula (Chaetopelma persianum), has been unveiled through a groundbreaking study. This distinctive species, distinguished by its unique woolly golden hairs, was found in northwestern Iran. The discovery, made by Dr. Alireza Zamani from the University of Turku, Finland, and his Canadian collaborator Rick C. West, was featured in a ZooKeys publication on Tarantula Appreciation Day, celebrated every 8th of August.
The Persian Gold Tarantula falls within the Chaetopelma genus, a relatively small group found in regions like Crete, Sudan, and the Middle East. This tarantula is remarkable for being one of the two tarantula genera present in the Mediterranean vicinity.
Notably, this find marks the initial record of the Chaetopelma genus in Iran, revealing the third known tarantula species in the country. Moreover, it extends the known range of Chaetopelma spiders by nearly 350 km towards the east.
In a nod to its native land, the species is named Chaetopelma persianum, reflecting the historical name of Iran as Persia. The authors propose the informal name “Persian Gold Tarantula” for this striking arachnid.
Characterized as an obligate burrower, the Persian Gold Tarantula resides in elevated terrains within the lush mountainous landscapes of the northern Zagros Mountains. The initial specimen, which led to the species’ identification, was discovered in a naturally created subterranean burrow on a sloping rocky terrain, surrounded by sparse vegetation and grasses.
The tale commenced when local nature enthusiast Mehdi Gavahyan captured an image of a wandering male spider and shared it with Zamani. Recognizing the likelihood of an undocumented species, Zamani engaged Gavahyan and his friend Amir Hossein Aghaei in a collaboration. The duo was tasked with providing spider specimens for in-depth analysis. Regrettably, only a lone female specimen was obtained, ultimately serving as the focal point for the species description.
Further contributions to the study came from local citizen scientists and naturalists, who furnished images of two additional males from the same genus. These images were taken in close proximity to the new species’ point of origin: one in Sardasht, West Azerbaijan Province of Iran, and the other in the vicinity of Sulaymaniyah in Iraq. While the likelihood is high that both males belong to Ch. persianum, definitive confirmation awaits thorough scrutiny of specimens from both genders.
The researchers convey their forward-looking perspective: “We anticipate that a more comprehensive approach, combining diverse methodologies, will significantly enhance our understanding of Chaetopelma spiders. Furthermore, exploring less-explored or entirely uncharted regions—such as Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iraq, eastern Turkey, and western Iran—holds potential for unearthing more Chaetopelma species or valuable records. Such discoveries are vital for advancing our grasp of this genus’ taxonomy and distribution.”