Farewell to the world’s oldest arachnid: Trapdoor spider that lived in the Australian outback has died aged 43

Posted on April 30, 2018.

A remarkable trapdoor spider discovered in Western Australia could be the longest-lived spider ever recorded.

Researchers say the female Gaius Villosus lived to be 43 years old, crushing the previous world record, which belonged to a 28-year-old Mexican tarantula.

Through a long-term population study conducted in the Central Wheatbelt region since 1974, scientists have gained unprecedented insight on the lives of these eight-legged creatures, revealing unique behaviours that might help them live for so long.

A remarkable trapdoor spider discovered in Western Australia could be the longest-lived spider ever recorded. Researchers say the female Gaius Villosus lived to be 43 years old, crushing the previous world record

In a new study published to the journal Pacific Conservation Biology, researchers from Curtin University report the record-breaking longevity of a Gaius Villosus trapdoor matriarch.

The spider died recently during the long-term population study – but by then, she’d reached the ripe age of 43.

While some large arachnids are known to live long lives, the latest discovery surpasses other record holders by a landslide.

‘To our knowledge this is the oldest spider ever recorded, and her significant life has allowed us to further investigate the trapdoor spider’s behaviour and population dynamics,’ said lead author, PhD student Leanda Mason, from the School of Molecular and Life Sciences at Curtin University.

Scientists have been observing spiders in the region for decades, the researcher explains.

The latest discovery could shed life on the incredible survival abilities of the Gaius Villosus.

‘The research project was first initiated by Barbara York Main in 1974, who monitored the long-term spider population for over 42 years in the Central Wheatbelt region of Western Australia,’ Mason said.

‘Through Barbara’s detailed research, we were able to determine that the extensive life span of the trapdoor spider is due to their life-history traits, including how they live in uncleared, native bushland, their sedentary nature and low metabolisms.’

Trapdoor spiders dig deep burrows in the ground, which they close off with a ‘trapdoor.’ They are sedentary predators, meaning they lie in wait until their prey crawls into their path – then, they ambush. File photo

HOW DID TRAPDOOR SPIDERS REACH AUSTRALIA?

They usually move only a few metres, but trapdoor spiders once made an incredible journey of more than 6,000 miles from South Africa to Australia, new research has found.

But according to a new study, the eight-legged creatures made the miraculous journey two million years ago by travelling on floating debris.

The trapdoor spider reached Australia via long-distance ocean travel across the Indian Ocean from Africa to Australia.

This 6,175 miles (9,940 km) journey first happened between two and 16 million years ago.

The researchers from the University of Adelaide suggest that a spider colony could have travelled across the oceans on a land ‘raft’ – a large chunk of land and vegetation washed out to sea.

The spiders are well suited for this because they live underground in secure burrows with well-fitting lids which would provide shelter during the journey.

The species also have a low metabolic rate and would be able to survive the journey with limited food sources.

A trapdoor spider is pictured

Trapdoor spiders (pictured) first reached Australia two million years ago by travelling thousands of miles from South Africa on floating debris, new research has found

The Curtin University team continued the research, and were able to determine the spider’s age and how she died.

These spiders dig deep burrows in the ground, which they close off with a ‘trapdoor.’

They are sedentary predators, meaning they lie in wait until their prey crawls into their path – then, they ambush.

According to the researchers, the study could improve understanding of how different species survive the Australian outback.

‘These spiders exemplify an approach to life in ancient landscapes, and through our ongoing research we will be able to determine how the future stresses of climate change and deforestation will potentially impact the species,’ said co-author Associate Professor Grant Wardell-Johnson.

Source: Daily Mail