World's Oldest Spider Dies Aged 43

For a lot of people, the death of a spider doesn't tend to invoke a great deal of emotion, aside from maybe the relief that you won't find it scuttling over your pillow in the dead of night.

However, many were left mourning after the passing of one of the eight-legged critters last week. But this was no ordinary arachnid.

The spider, lovingly nicknamed 'Number 16' by researchers, was the oldest known creature of its species on the planet. And at a whopping 43 years of age, it's not really a surprise.

Credit: Marshal Hedin/Creative Commons
Credit: Marshal Hedin/Creative Commons

Researchers at Australia's Curtin University were disappointed that Number 16 hadn't quite managed to get to her 50th birthday, but considering she surpassed the second oldest known spider by 15 years, she still had a pretty good innings.

The research, published in the Pacific Conservation Biology Journal, states that the 43-year-old Giaus Villosus - or trapdoor spider to those of us not wearing thick glasses and lab coats - had outlived the previous world record holder, a 28-year-old tarantula found in Mexico.

"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," said lead author, PhD student Leanda Mason, from the School of Molecular and Life Sciences at Curtin University.

Credit: Jimmy Tan/Creative Commons; Trapdoor spider webs
Credit: Jimmy Tan/Creative Commons; Trapdoor spider webs

"The research project was first initiated by Barbara York Main in 1974, when she monitored the long-term spider population for more than 42 years in the Central Wheatbelt region of Western Australia.

"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."

In spider terms, 43 years is a huge lifespan. Trapdoor spiders generally don't tend to see past the age of around 20, and species such as black widows die after only two years.

Bigger species of spiders seem to live longer than smaller ones. The goliath birdeater spider and various breeds of tarantulas can live to be anything up to 25.

Co-author, Associate Professor Grant Wardell-Johnson, from the School of Molecular and Life Sciences and the Deputy Director of the Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre for Mine Site Restoration (CMSR), described how the spider's behavioural characteristics suited it to survival in the Australian outback.

"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," Associate Professor Wardell-Johnson said.

However, despite all that the researchers learned from the life of Number 16, they are still very upset to see her go.

"We're really miserable about it, Mason told the Telegraph. "We were hoping she could have made it to 50 years old."

Featured Image Credit: Marshal Hedin/Creative Commons

Paddy Maddison

Paddy Maddison is a freelance journalist and frequent contributor to LADbible. He specialises in men's lifestyle, music and news, which has seen him work with publications including ShortList, FashionBeans, Menswear Style and many industry-leading brands. Contact him at [email protected]

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