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Rare Great Fox-Spider Discovered In UK For The First Time Since 1990s

Rare Great Fox-Spider Discovered In UK For The First Time Since 1990s

A rare spider that uses powerful venom to liquify the organs of its prey has been discovered on a military training site in Surrey for the first time in a generation.

The great fox-spider was previously thought to be extinct and has been listed as critically endangered, but wildlife enthusiast Mike Waite has now turned up some of the large spiders on a Ministry of Defence base in the south of England.

The spiders have only ever been observed at three sites in the UK in Dorset and Surrey, and hadn't been seen at all since the early '90s.

Waite said that he was 'over the moon' to have proven that the two-inch (5cm) spiders were still present.

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The great fox-spider. Credit: Mike Waite/Surrey Wildlife Trust
The great fox-spider. Credit: Mike Waite/Surrey Wildlife Trust

It all started when he discovered some spiderlings - baby spiders - that he couldn't identify at the side, which is managed by the Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust after - he said - 'many hours of late night searching with a torch over the last two years'.

Then, he found several mature male spiders and a female.

Waite told The Guardian: "As soon as my torch fell on it I knew what it was. I was elated. With coronavirus there have been lots of ups and downs this year, and I also turned 60, so it was a good celebration of that. It's a gorgeous spider, if you're into that kind of thing."

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Aye, if you're into that sort of thing, sure.

The great fox-spider doesn't make webs, instead it kills smaller spiders, beetles and ants by injecting them with venom that immobilises them and liquifies their internal organs.

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The females are about two inches long. Credit: Mike Waite/Surrey Wildlife Trust
The females are about two inches long. Credit: Mike Waite/Surrey Wildlife Trust
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Nick Baker, the TV presenter and president of the British Arachnological Society, said that this is the 'the most exciting thing to happen in wildlife circles for quite some time'.

He added: "It's about as handsome as a spider gets, it's big and now it's officially a member of the British fauna again."

They're difficult to spot because of their camouflage, and the fact that they hunt largely at night.

In the winter, they burrow underground and spin a silk lining for their hole, entering a state of almost hibernation.

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Mike Waite. Credit: Mike Waite/Surrey Wildlife Trust
Mike Waite. Credit: Mike Waite/Surrey Wildlife Trust

Waite added: "I am naturally over the moon to have finally proved the continued existence of the Great Fox-Spider in the UK.

"Although I've always held a latent interest in spiders, as a bona-fide arachnologist, I am still a relative newbie, so am doubly pleased to have made this important contribution to our scientific knowledge."

Featured Image Credit: Mike Waite/Surrey Wildlife Trust

Topics: Spider, UK News, Interesting, Weird, Animals

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Tom Wood

Tom Wood is a LADbible journalist and Twin Peaks enthusiast. Despite having a career in football cut short by a chronic lack of talent, he managed to obtain degrees from both the University of London and Salford. According to his French teacher, at the weekends he mostly likes to play football and go to the park with his brother. Contact Tom on [email protected]