Exotic spider in a terrarium
Photo: Roman Stasiuk / iStockphoto / Getty Images
According to a recent analysis, more than a thousand species of spiders and scorpions are traded – mostly uncontrolled and with false certificates of origin.
A good two-thirds of the animals sold are probably wild-caught, reports an international research team in the journal Communications Biology.
Many of the species could come from threatened stocks, only two percent are subject to international trade regulations.
An analysis of international sales lists and websites revealed a total of 1264 traded species, 993 of which (79 percent) the specialist team found exclusively online and not in trade databases.
According to the study, the possibility of being able to send young animals and also adult specimens by post probably fuels online trade.
Spiders were the most frequently searched species with 903 species, followed by scorpions with 350 species and whipscorpions with 11 species.
Half of all known species of the tarantula group were traded.
Some of the better known species can be found here:
Numerous unknown spider species suspected
According to the experts, many of the traded animals came from countries where they are not native.
About half of all species allegedly imported from Chile are not known to occur there.
This indicates either a lack of knowledge about the distribution of individual species - or the concealment of the origin in order to circumvent stricter trade restrictions in individual countries.
Overall, there are many gaps in knowledge that make it more difficult to control trade and thus make it easier to protect natural stocks, the researchers conclude.
Many species have not yet been scientifically described, and their habitats and distribution are often unknown.
In addition, the animals are often traded under their trivial names, and individual species can often only be distinguished by experts.
If species are newly described - in the past 20 years or so there have been more than 17,000 arachnoids - they often find their way onto the market within a short period of time.