Australian scientists have discovered what they believe is the world’s oldest spider, a creature that had most likely outlived the previous record holder by about 15 years.
In a study published in the journal Pacific Conservation Biology and cited by Phys.org, a team of researchers led by Curtin University doctoral student Leanda Mason analyzed a female Giaus Villosus trapdoor spider that had recently died during a separate population study. The spider, which was given the name “Number 16,” is believed to have died at the age of 43, making it 15 years older than a 28-year-old tarantula from Mexico that was once considered the world’s oldest spider.
According to the Telegraph, the spider population study is the “life’s work” of Australian biologist Barbara York Main, who had first encountered Number 16 in 1974, not long after it was born. The Curtin University team continued where Main had left off, and was able to glean more information on the creature that might be world’s oldest spider, including details on its life history, its age, and its cause of death.
“To our knowledge this is the oldest spider ever recorded and her significant life has allowed us to further investigate the trapdoor spider’s behavior and popular dynamics,” said Mason, in a statement.
Mason credited Main’s previous research, stating that the trapdoor spider is able to live such along life because of its “life-history traits,” such as its sedentary lifestyle, low metabolism rate, and the fact that it lives in “uncleared, native bushland” where it isn’t at risk of being attacked by predators.
“We’re really miserable about it,” Mason added, referring to the death of what her team believes to be the world’s oldest spider.
According to the Telegraph, trapdoor spiders are a poisonous species, with the males of the species usually more visible to humans, due to their tendency to leave home in search for a mate; females, on the other hand, seldom stray more than a few feet away from their burrows. Animal Corner also notes that trapdoor spiders could range in length from 2.5 to 4 centimeters in length, and come with eight eyes, a stocky build, and eight “thick and short legs.” While these creatures are often popular as exotic pets, the publication warned that the species is aggressive by nature, and should only be kept by experienced exotic pet owners.
Considering how the female trapdoor spider tracked by Main since the 1970s became the world’s oldest known spider through its unusual behavioral traits, Curtin University associate professor and study co-author Grant Wardell-Johnson said that his team’s research should be instrumental going forward in determining how climate change and deforestation could have an effect on the species.