Number 16, World's Oldest Known Spider, Dies Aged 43


The project was started by University of Western Australia biologist Barbara York Main in 1974 and is now supervised by a team of researchers at Curtin University.

The poisonous creature, named Number 16 was 43 years old and had outlived the world's next-oldest spider, a tarantula in Mexico, by a whopping 15 years.

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), explained how the spider's behavioural characteristics contributed to its survival in the Australian outback.

During the observation, they noted the secret to trapdoor spiders' longevity lies in their sedentary way of living.

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Instead, they live underground and build a cork-like trapdoor out of soil, vegetation, and silk, which they use to trap insects.

"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 Leanda Mason, PhD student at Curtin University in Australia.

Since its birth in 1974, the Number 16 spider was included in the population targeted for study. Previously, researchers believed trapdoor spiders lived 25 years. They cleverly camouflage their trapdoor and lay out trip lines so that when an insect triggers it, they leap out in surprise attack, dragging their prey into their burrow.

Number 16 probably didn't die of natural causes.

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The spider did not die of old age but was killed by a wasp sting, researchers said.

Mason worked with Main for six years and says the scientist taught her a lot about spiders - and about scientific objectivity. The study The longest-lived spider: mygalomorphs dig deep, and persevere can be read in its entirety here.

Unlike male trapdoor spiders which leave their burrows and range the landscape looking for food, the females stay in or near their burrows their whole lives.

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