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Insects Trapdoor Spider

World's oldest spider, 43, victim of 'gruesome' murder

Leeanna McLean
Digital Reporter

Tuesday, May 1, 2018, 7:07 PM - The world's oldest known spider has died at the age of 43 in Western Australia, according to a study recently published in Pacific Conservation Biology journal.

The female Giaus Villosus trapdoor spider had surpassed the previous record holder, a 28-year-old Mexican tarantula.

"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, the study's lead author Leanda Mason from the School of Molecular and Life Sciences at Curtin University said in a press release.

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The spider was referred to as "Number 16," and unfortunately she suffered a grisly death. The matriarch was found dead after being stung by a parasitic wasp, according to the study.

"[Wasps] are quite brutal in the way they prey on spiders," Mason told CBC's As It Happens.

"They enter the burrow and then lay an egg either in or on the spider. And then the egg, once it hatches, the larvae will either eat the spider from the inside out or the outside in. It's a gruesome, gruesome death for Number 16."

Number 16, pictured above, was a 43-year-old female trapdoor spider. -- Pacific Conservation Biology

Arachnologist Barbara York Main first discovered Number 16 in 1974. She monitored the female spider for over 42 years in the Central Wheatbelt region of Western Australia.

Why is the life expectancy of a trapdoor spider so long?

It's because the spiders live in bushland, have a low metabolism and tend to stay in one place, according to Mason. 

"Number 16 was out in the bush, which is even more impressive because we all know that animals living captivity can live longer, perhaps, than those in the wild," the author told CBC.

Main who suffers from Alzheimer's mentored Mason for six years, CBC reports.

"I wanted to give Number 16 a 40th birthday present, which for a spider would be a mealworm, but Barbara said that was not OK because it might've biased the study. Which is fair enough," Mason told the news agency.

"She's inspiring -- or inspidering, as I like to say."

Mason and her colleagues want to build upon Main's 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," co-author Grant Wardell-Johnson said in the release.

WATCH BELOW: Spider clings on for dear life in Australia flooding

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