In the open forest areas of central Queensland, north-east Australia, a giant has been found that builds its burrows in the black soil of the Brigalow belt.
The tarantella-like arachnid has been given the Latin name Euoplos dignitas.
– It means ‘dignity’ or ‘greatness’ – which reflects the spider’s impressive size and nature, says Michael Rix, chief curator of arachnids at the Queensland Museum, in a statement.
– It is a spectacular spider, really big and beautiful, he continues.
According to a study published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Arachnology, the spider has been the subject of an extensive research program at the Queensland Museum since 2017.
The colorful body is five centimeters long, and then the legs are not included. According to the researchers, this is “very large” when it comes to this type of spider.
HIDDEN THREAT: See the spider in action in this clip from “The Dark: Nature’s Nighttime World.” Video: YouTube/BBC Earth
Euoplos dignitas is a type of so-called trapdoor spider. They get their name because they build trap holes with a cork-like trapdoor made of soil, vegetation and silk.
At night, when an unsuspecting insect passes by, the “door” slams open. The spider grabs hold of the prey, which is quickly pulled into the burrow where it is eaten alive.
The spiders use poisonous fangs when they hunt. But although the bite can be painful, it is harmless to humans.
The pet is shaking: – Stopped breathing
The females of this type of spider are very territorial and usually stay in the same burrow throughout their lives. And these can get really old.
– These spiders are incredibly cool because they live so long. Some trapdoor spiders can live for literally decades, Paula Cushing, senior curator at the Denver Museum of Natural Sciences, told CNN.
The longest-lived known trapdoor spider we know of died in 2018. It was then 43 years old.
It should be said that the spider – who went by the name “Number 16” – died of a wasp sting and not of old age.
Was going to turn off the light: – I snapped
Rediscovered on the side of the road
Right shall be right: Euoplos dignitas was first discovered in the early 20th century, near the towns of Monto and Eidsvold in Queensland.
– But it remained undescribed and nameless due to a lack of research, Michael Rix, chief curator of arachnids at the Queensland Museum, told CNN.
Since the 1970s, the museum has had a small handful of the spider species in its collection, and all of them were females. In order to correctly identify and name a new species, they had to find a male.
After several days of intense searching in 2021, the researchers finally found one on the side of the road. The last time a specimen of the species was found was in the 1990s. And this one turned out to be a male.
But while the researchers celebrate the discovery of the rare giant, they state that it is urgent to provide it with adequate protection.
Startling spider discovery
– Extremely destructive
In the past, the semi-arid forests of the Brigalow belt extended over large areas in eastern Queensland. But during the last 150 years, the forests have been greatly reduced. Several animal species are threatened, including the “new” spider.
When the Euoplos dignitas male was found, the researchers observed something discouraging:
Several of the habitats that would typically be available to this species had been cleared for agriculture or otherwise heavily disturbed by human activity.
– It is extremely destructive for the trapdoor spiders, for their burrows and not least the habitat, says Rix to CNN.
He explains that, as of now, it is not known how many remaining populations of the species there are.
– The natural range of the species is small and very fragmented. At the time we searched, we were only able to discover one living specimen.