The oldest known spider in the world died in Australia at the venerable age of 43 (at least), researchers said. This arachnid of the species Gaius villosus has far exceeded the previous record that was held by a Mexican tarantula 28 years, according to the study published by the Pacific Conservation Biology Journal on April 19, 2018. The spider is however not dead because of her age, but because of a wasp sting, the researchers told journalists.
A spider followed by researchers practically all her life
Named “Number 16”, it allowed scientists to learn more about the behavior of a spider that is found throughout Australia, including in private gardens. “To our knowledge, this is the oldest spider specimen to have been monitored and its long history has allowed us to learn more about the behavior of burrowing spiders and population dynamics,” said researcher Leanda Mason, Curtin University of Perth, Western Australia.
Number 16 was discovered in 1974 when a survey of burrowing spiders in central Wheatbelt was launched by 88-year-old Australian spider specialist Barbara York Main. “Through Barbara’s detailed research, we have been able to determine that the longevity of burrowing spiders is due to their life cycle, including how they live in uncleared bushland areas, their sedentary nature and their weak metabolism, “said Ms. Mason. The study also provided a better understanding of the human threats to the species, including global warming and deforestation.
Number 16 was studied in its natural habitat
Female burrowing spiders spend most of their lives in or near the same burrow. The researchers had marked number 16 — which was studied in its natural habitat — and observed it very regularly.
In addition to breaking a new record, the death of this spider at age 43 also demonstrates that long-term research is essential to understanding how different species live in the Australian environment and how they might evolve in the future to adapt or not to climate change. “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,” concludes Professor Grant Wardell-Johnson, co-author of the paper.
These arachnids usually live between 5 and 20 years. They do not pose a major threat to humans but their bite can be painful.