Australia has a notorious reputation as home to some of the world’s deadliest creatures and until recently also harboured the oldest known living spider in the world.
The trapdoor matriarch, named Number 16, died at the ripe old age of 43 during a long-term population study in Western Australia’s Central Wheatbelt and far outlived her previous rival, a 28-year-old Mexican tarantula.
Curtin University’s Leanda Mason said the arachnid’s significant life had allowed scientists to further investigate the behaviour and population dynamics of trapdoor spiders, scientific name Gaius Villosus.
The research project was started by renowned University of WA biologist and spider specialist Professor Barbara York Main in 1974, when Number 16 was discovered in her original survey.
“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,” Ms Mason said.
Professor Main’s research has shown that the male trapdoor spider leaves his burrow at maturity, around seven to nine years old, to wander in search of a mate, after which he dies.
The female stays put, raising hatchlings inside the protection of her burrow, which she temporarily seals up with a mud plug.
She lives on in the same burrow for the duration of her life.
Things that happened in 1974:
- Observation begins of ‘Number 16’, a trapdoor spider in WA
- Richard Nixon resigns as US president
- Muhammed Ali beats George Forman in the ‘Rumble in the Jungle’
- Stephen King publishes debut novel Carrie
- Brisbane River floods
- Cyclone Tracy strikes Darwin