New species of ‘giant’ spider discovered hiding underground in Australia, experts say
Hiding underground and only emerging at night, a creepy crawly creature in the woodlands of Australia remained undetected. Not anymore.
Researchers in Queensland set out to formally document a “rare and giant” spider and determined it was a new species, the Queensland Museum said in a news release. The scientists found the trapdoor spider hiding in the soil of woodland areas.
The researchers named the spider Euoplos dignitas, a name meaning “dignity or greatness” that’s intended to reflect the “impressive size and nature of the spider,” museum officials said.
Male Euoplos dignitas spiders have a bright red coloring, long spindly legs and an almost shiny body, photos shared by the museum on Facebook on March 17 show. Females of the species have more of a muted red coloring and a compact body shape.
Genetic and biological research on the new species was published in the Journal of Arachnology on March 15.
The Euoplos dignitas spider has “really cryptic trapdoors in these woodland habitats on the ground,” Michael Rix, co-author of the study, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. “Most people wouldn’t even realise that they’re there.”
Photos shared on Facebook by Threatened Treasures show the animal’s circular, almost pipe-like burrow with a “door” made of silk and soil.
While collecting specimens for the study, researchers routinely found these roughly 4-inch-wide burrows along the roadside, the study said.
The female spiders spend most of their lives in their underground burrows, Rix told The Guardian. The male spiders move from mate to mate and burrow to burrow every five to seven years.
“The males of this species are what we sort of call a really honey-red colour — they’re really quite stunning,” Rix told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
Euoplos dignitas spiders are “much larger” than other trapdoor spider species, the study said. Males grow to a total length just over an inch, but females can reach almost 2 inches in size.
The spider uses venom on its prey but is not harmful for humans, Rix told The Guardian. “The bite might be physically painful because of their size, but they’re not dangerous,” he said.
So far, the Euoplos dignitas has only been found in a few areas of central Queensland, the museum said. Researchers found the species in Eidsvold and Monto, a pair of cities about 700 miles north of Sydney.
Land clearing operations in central Queensland have negatively affected the spider’s habitat, the museum said. The study authors described the species as likely endangered.
Scientists do not know the population size or distribution range of these spiders, The Guardian reported. Still, further research is needed.
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