A lovely spider story

On April 29 I put up a brief note about the world’s oldest known spider, who recently died in Australia at the age of 43. But that didn’t convey the affection that we scientists often feel for our research subjects, even if they’re spiders. And so the Washington Post has published a lovely article by Avi Selk, who drew “largely from research conducted by Barbara Main and Leanda Mason, who knew [the spider] best over nearly half a century.”

Read it—it won’t take long—and see if, even among the arachnophobe readers—you don’t feel a pang of loss at the poignantly described death of this aged trapdoor spider, known only as Number 16.

Her burrow and her trapdoor (photos by Landa Mason):

h/t: Grania


  1. Barry Lyons
    Posted May 2, 2018 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

    Nice story. Love the detail about the “finely contoured plug.”

  2. Posted May 2, 2018 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    That really *was* a lovely story. I was compelled to keep reading for want of updates. When I realised I was about to read of her death, I actually felt.

  3. Randall Schenck
    Posted May 2, 2018 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    Nice story. Damn wasp.

    • David Coxill
      Posted May 2, 2018 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

      Why damn wasp?

      • DTaylor
        Posted May 2, 2018 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

        Because, after reading this remarkable story, I felt quite affectionate towards 16, and the wasp was the cause of the loss of a newly-found friend. And, yes, the wasp was just doing his wasperly thing, but I didn’t know him personally.

        • Posted May 2, 2018 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

          Just doing her wasperly thing.

          And yes, I felt a sense of injustice. How could the wasp do that to number sixteen? But that’s just me projecting my human sensibilities onto wasps and spiders.

        • David Coxill
          Posted May 3, 2018 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

          Don’t be such a big girls blouse .
          You didn’t know this spider personally .

          Much as i hate Spiders ,i find them interesting .
          Just don’t like them in the place where i live .
          When we were in Tucson we visited the Saguaro National Park ,at the entrance was a lady with a Tarantula in a box (there was also a Cricket in the corner wishing it was somewhere else ).

          I took two photos of it ,i will email them to the boss ,and he might post them on here .

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted May 3, 2018 at 3:38 am | Permalink

      Just another reason to hate wasps.


  4. Robert
    Posted May 2, 2018 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

    Thank you so much for this. It is a story I will always remember.

  5. Posted May 2, 2018 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

    RIP, Number 16.

  6. Christopher
    Posted May 2, 2018 at 10:16 pm | Permalink

    Sadly, this would be considered a ripe old age for a human in a few countries, like Central African Republic or Lesotho.

  7. Commen-tater
    Posted May 2, 2018 at 11:57 pm | Permalink

    The estimate of the spider’s age seems to depend on one biologist’s belief that one trapdoor spider never takes over another trapdoor spider’s burrow. But that, of course, is what she would want to believe.

    Does anybody know what the evidence shows?

  8. Mike
    Posted May 3, 2018 at 7:24 am | Permalink

    Lovely story, remarkable age, who knows how much longer she would have lived, if the Wasp hadn’t intervened.

  9. Andrea Kenner
    Posted May 5, 2018 at 9:32 pm | Permalink

    What a sweet story!

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