Scientists mourn the death of 43-year-old spider

The world's oldest known spider has died a violent and untimely death aged 43, after being stung by a wasp, researchers have said.

The eight-legged old timer was watched in the wild since she was born in 1974 as part of a long-term study of the population.

Since its birth in 1974, the Number 16 spider was included in the population targeted for study. Main monitored the spiders for years, and according to Michelle Starr at ScienceAlert, marked and observed over 150 spider burrows.

No. 16 died in May 2017. She lives in the same burrow for the duration of her life.

Main, 88, now has Alzheimer's, and Mason and her colleagues are working to honour her legacy and carry on her life's work.

These spiders live much longer than other arthropods, and experts are trying to learn their "secrets". The study The longest-lived spider: mygalomorphs dig deep, and persevere can be read in its entirety here.

The previous record-holder was a mere stripling, a 28-year-old tarantula from Mexico. When some unsuspecting prey trips one of those lines, the spider leaps from its camouflaged trapdoor to snag it. As the AFP reports, there are two contributing factors. This lifestyle provides protection from potential predators and allows the female to conserve energy.

Their longevity was due to "life-history traits, including how they live in uncleared, native bushland, their sedentary nature and low metabolisms", Mason said.

The lifespan of a trapdoor spider is between five and 20 years. In any case, her death came as a blow to the researchers. "We're really miserable about it". The female Giaus Villosus turned 43 years, but she recently died in the course of the research. "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", study co-author Wardell-Johnson said.

  • Eleanor Harrison