World's oldest known spider dies at 43

The world’s oldest spider which lived in WA has died

A spider believed to be the oldest in the world has died at the age of 43, heartbroken Australian scientists announced this week.

The spider, was also known as Number 16 to Australian scientists, was a female trapdoor tarantula living in Western Australia's Central Wheatbelt region. The female Giaus Villosus, or trapdoor spider, was born in 1974 and has been under scientific observation its whole life. Main monitored the spiders for years, and according to Michelle Starr at ScienceAlert, marked and observed over 150 spider burrows.

Trapdoor spiders are called such because they don't spin webs like many others.

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Typically, Trapdoor spiders are around 2-3 centimeters long, with powerful jaws and sharp fangs. Their bites are nontoxic to humans and they are usually very timid. They build almost 30-centimeter-deep burrows with a cork-like trapdoor made of soil and vegetation, and sit inactive with low metabolism in those tiny, plant and soil camouflaged homes.

The project was started by University of Western Australia biologist Barbara York Main in 1974 and is now supervised by a team of researchers at Curtin University. As part of the study, all active burrows were checked every six months. No. 16 was last seen alive in the spring of 2016, but when researchers checked on her in October of that year, they found that a parasitic wasp had infiltrated the burrow, which was already falling into disrepair. Her burrow fell into disrepair thereafter, meaning that poor Number 16 was probably eaten from the inside out by a spider wasp larva. All of her contemporaries were long gone by this time. When some unsuspecting prey trips one of those lines, the spider leaps from its camouflaged trapdoor to snag it. "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", lead author Leanda Mason said in a statement.

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