World's Oldest Spider Dies at 43 Years Old in the Australian Outback

Saturday, 28 April 2018 - 12:58PM
Saturday, 28 April 2018 - 12:58PM
World's Oldest Spider Dies at 43 Years Old in the Australian Outback
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Flickr/Bernard DUPONT
Researchers recently made a surprising discovery while conducting a long-term study of spiders in Western Australia when one of their trapdoor spiders died - that spider was at least as old as some of the researchers. 

The arachnid, a matriarch from the Giaus Villosus trapdoor species, had lived to the ripe old age of 43 before its death, beating out the previous record holder (a 28 year-old tarantula in Mexico) by a wide margin. While trapdoor spiders are known for long lifespans with an average age of 20 years old, finding one who was born before the original Star Wars came out is still an impressive feat, and a tragic loss for the researchers.

The research was just published in the Pacific Conservation Biology Journal. For reference, other spiders like black widows only live around two years, while wolf spiders live for less than a year. Big spiders like tarantulas can live longer though, and of course the trapdoor spider was already an exception before this discovery was made.

This long term study that the spider had been a part of first began back in 1974 at Curtin University, and has been kept alive by different researchers over the years. And it was partly the spider's presence in the study that allowed researchers to identify its age - while a spider this old is most certainly uncommon, there might be other middle-aged arachnids out there somewhere.

According to Leanda Mason, the lead author of the study, this study has been invaluable to our understanding of trapdoor spiders. She said the following in a press release from Curtin University:

Opening quote
"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. The research project was first initiated by Barbara York Main in 1974, who monitored the long-term spider population for over 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."
Closing quote

While it may be unsurprising that such a terrifying and long-lived creature is found in Australia, with its reputation for dangerous fauna (to the point that a running joke is to warn tourists about fictional killer dropbears), trapdoor spiders can actually be found all over the world. They're known for their collective habit of creating burrows to hide in, waiting to pounce on prey when it wanders by. 

And now we know: sometimes they can stay in those burrows for longer than you've lived in your current house or apartment. Rest in peace, terrifying spider.
Science News