Sometimes, the littlest things have the biggest impact. That’s the philosophy behind the Spineless Marvels exhibit in the San Diego Zoo’s Children’s Zoo. It provides a way for visitors to discover and appreciate spiders as well as scorpions and insects. Terrariums set into the walls offer a rare opportunity to marvel at these animals. Currently, you’ll find the fascinating bird-eating spider on exhibit, but different spiders rotate through the exhibit seasonally. You never know what you might find on display!
Likewise at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, Hidden Jungle is a tropical exhibit home to the smaller and quieter critters you might miss in a rain forest, close enough for you to discover, such as birds, frogs, butterflies, and spiders. There’s a lot going on UNDER the leaves! Currently, there is a Mombasa golden starburst tarantula and a western black widow spider. The Park is expecting some new arrivals native to Africa, including horned baboon and Fort Hall baboon spiders.
Creating and maintaining a healthy habitat for spiders takes time, patience, and intense attention to detail. Temperature and humidity are monitored and adjusted to suit each species’ preferences. And although they’re small in size, meeting a spider’s needs takes a big effort. Keepers maintain the cleanliness and safety of enclosures, feed the spiders, and make health observations just as mammal, bird, and reptile keepers do.
For every spider or other insect you see at the Zoo, there are at least 10 more behind the scenes. At any given time, the Spineless Marvels building is home to 30 to 40 arthropod species, most of which live in the containment area. The containment area has separate entrance and exit vestibules. Each is a “clean room,” with no furniture or other potential hiding places. Each is also equipped with a mirror, so that keepers can check their back to make sure no one is “hitching a ride” into the great world beyond.
Hear from our entomology experts by reading our Insect Blog.
Spiders often get a bad rap, and some people are afraid of them. But only a few species are dangerous to humans, and even they won’t bite unless they feel threatened.
Like so many animals, spiders are affected by habitat loss and by nonnative species introduced by humans that can often take over spider habitat. Some spider species threatened by international trade are protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Spiders can only be legally traded if CITES permits are obtained from the exporting country. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service occasionally brings spiders that are illegally shipped to the U.S. to the San Diego Zoo for care. The incoming spiders are given an assessment that includes measuring the leg span to approximate the size of the spider, determining gender, and recording the overall health of the animal.
Spiders are very important to the health of the ecosystem because they eat insects and other arthropods and keep their numbers in check. Spiders are also food for many animals, including humans, and tarantulas are considered a delicacy in many countries. Medical researchers are studying the chemicals in spider venom for use in treating diseases in humans. Let's hear it for spiders!