The World’s oldest known Spider died at the Age of 43

The World’s oldest known Spider died at the Age of 43

A parasitic wasp led to the death of the world’s oldest known spider in Australia.

The lifespan of living things is decreasing continuously and the analysis of human history will guide you perfectly in this regard. A lot of species are being wiped away from the surface of this planet. Contrary to all this, an Australian female Trapdoor Spider, commonly known as Number 16, outlived all the expectations as she died at the age of 43 after living a peaceful life. If any of us was asked to judge an age limit for spiders, it would never be as high as that.

Number 16 broke all the records of spider longevity by surviving more than four decades in her small burrow. She was observed for years during a long-term population study where scientists figured out the behavior of such spiders. Leanda Mason, the lead author from Curtin University, agreed to that in the following words:

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 population dynamics.

The Tasmanian Cave Spiders are expected to survive for a maximum of 40 years but the maximum limit previously set for Trapdoor Spiders was 20 years. Despite all the stats, the record for longest-lived known spider was held by a Tarantula found in Mexico. He lived for 28 years. The fact that she lived for 15 more years will change the entire dynamics of the research that is being done on spiders. An Australian Arachnologist, Barbara York Main, initiated a research project to study trapdoor spiders in 1974.

The central wheat-belt region of Western Australia was chosen for this long-term study. Number 16 was found during this research and was continuously being monitored until her death. Mason acknowledged the work of Barbara as she said,

Through Barbara’s detailed research, we were able to determine that the extensive lifespan 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 start digging their own burrows once they leave the nest of their mother. They continue to do so until the age of 5 years. Female trapdoor spiders live in the same burrow all their lives while their male counterparts leave their homes once they attain maturity. They do so for sake of mating and die in the same season. Number 16 built her burrow in the North Bungulla Reserve when she was young. She stayed there all her life because the protection of their burrow is the most important thing for this creature.

In case of a damage, they repair their homes or die as they don’t believe in relocating. As she was not going anywhere from her burrow, the researchers marked the burrow and went there to check on her at regular intervals.

The exact time of her death is not known as all the active burrows were checked every six months. On 31st October 2016, the researchers noticed that the lid of her burrow was pierced by a parasitic wasp and it was in disrepair. As she was seen alive during the last visit, the researchers concluded that she died at the age of 43.

Trapdoor spiders are one of the most ancient species on this planet as they first appeared around the Triassic. They reside underground and can grow up to 4 centimeters in length. They are pretty good at camouflaging their trapdoor. They also draw trip lines which assist them in launching a surprise attack on any insect that comes close to it. They are not very dangerous for humans as their sting is not fatal. However, that part of the body will swell and it will cause pain.

The reduction in their number is a serious problem for Australian ecosystem as they prey on other invertebrates. The researchers are hopeful that this study will help them to distinguish the reasons for this worrying tendency. Grant Wardell-Johnson, the Director of the Curtin Institute of Biodiversity and Climate and the co-author of the study, said,

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.”   

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