World's Longest-Lived Spider Died at the Ripe Old Age of 43

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Gaius villosus, the longest-lived spider species. Toby Hudson/Wiki Commons

Spiders, and bugs in general, aren't usually thought of as long-lived creatures. That's probably a comfort for arachnophobes, but we've got some bad news for you: there are some eight-legged critters alive today that can live for over 40 years, reports

Researchers have confirmed that a trapdoor spider of the species Giaus villosus, from western Australia, survived until the ripe old age of 43 before finally perishing, presumably from old age. The specimen was female and, like many of her cohorts, was very large.

"To our knowledge this is the oldest spider ever recorded, and her significant life has allowed us to further investigate the trapdoor spider's behavior and population dynamics," explained lead author Leanda Mason.

Mason went on: "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."

Trapdoor spiders catch their prey in particularly shrewd fashion, by making trapdoors that are often hinged on one side with silk, and which are surrounded by silk "trip lines." When some unsuspecting prey trips one of those lines, the spider leaps from its camouflaged trapdoor to snag it. They are extremely patient hunters, and now we know that they can afford to be.

The 43-year-old specimen breaks the previous record holder (a 28-year-old tarantula found in Mexico) for the longest-lived spider by a wide margin. It also proves that studying these enigmatic arachnids requires long-term research. York Main, the researcher who launched the study, is now 88 years old. (At least she outlived the spiders.)

"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," said co-author Grant Wardell-Johnson.