Farewell, No. 16: scientists left ‘miserable’ after world’s oldest spider dies aged 43

spider

The world’s oldest known spider has died at the age of 43, outliving its nearest rival by 15 years, Australian scientists have reported.

Affectionately known as “Number 16”, the female Giaus Villosus or trapdoor spider had been under observation in the wild since its birth in 1974.

The arachnid is believed to have survived for so long by sticking to one protected burrow its entire life and expending the minimum of energy.

Previously the oldest known spider was a tarantula in Mexico, which died at the age of 28.

Published the Pacific Conservation Biology Journal, the research is the life’s work of Barbara York Main, now 88, who first set eyes on Number 16 shortly after its birth.

“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 Leanda Mason, a student of Professor Main’s and the study’s lead author.

“Through Barbara’s detailed research, we were able to determine that the extended 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.”

While trapdoor spiders are poisonous, it is the males, who leave their burrows to find a mate, which are usually encountered by humans.

A typical danger in Australia is homeowners finding what they believe to be dead spiders in their swimming pools, which can then rear up and attack when removed.

The trapdoor species typically take five to seven years to mature and will then invest their energies in a single burrow, with the females rarely venturing more than a few meters away from their place of birth.

Ms. Mason said of the Number 16’s death: “We’re really miserable about it.

“We were hoping she could have made it to 50 years old.”

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