Mehdi Gavahyan was wandering Iran’s Zagros Mountains when he snapped a photo of a small spider crawling by.
The local naturalist sent the photo to his friend, arachnologist Alireza Zamani. The scientist quickly determined the creature was likely a new species, so he asked Gavahyan and another friend to send him specimens of the spider, Zamani said in an Aug. 8 news release.
Despite their efforts, the naturalists were only able to capture one female spider. But that was enough for Zamani.
The creature had enough unique traits that Zamani said it could be determined the single female was a new species, Chaetopelma persianum, or the Persian gold tarantula, according to the release.
In a new study published Aug. 8 in ZooKeys, Zamani described the unusual species. Here’s what to know about the Persian gold tarantula.
A golden, woolly creature
The tarantula is covered in a layer of “woolly, silvery, golden” hairs, according to the study. Its legs have fine hairs that become a metallic blue-green iridescent color in the light.
Beneath this woolly overcoat, the eight-eyed creatures are a reddish brown, scientists said.
The female that scientists studied was about 1.4 inches long, including her legs, Zamani said in his release.
The tarantulas are a burrowing species, and they inhabit high elevations with lots of vegetation in the northern Zagros Mountains, the study said. The female specimen was found in a self-made burrow on a rocky slope.
The burrow’s entrance was made of silk mixed with soil and debris, according to researchers. Scientists used water to remove the tarantula from its burrow, making them unable to study inside of the hole.
Although only one female specimen has been collected, two potential males were photographed in nearby regions, the study said. Scientists have not determined if the tarantulas are officially Ch. persianum, but they said it is highly likely.
The Zagros Mountains are along Iran’s western edge.