It’s often thought by many of those living in other parts of the world that literally everything in Australia will kill you. With this in mind, the revelation that 11 new species of potentially deadly spiders have been found lurking around southern Queensland seems to back up this point. Natural selection appears to have chosen the desert continent as its laboratory for creating violent, poisonous, or venomous beasts aplenty, and a new treasure trove of terrifying discoveries are no exception to this rule.
Trapdoor spiders – named for the complex, camouflaged traps that ensnare their prey – can be found in a range of environments all over the world, but Griffith University doctoral student Jeremy Wilson, after thoroughly analyzing up to 200 specimens within the Queensland Museum, managed to track down all 11 new species in mostly the same part of Australia.
“Some of the bigger species I've found are about the size of your palm,” Wilson told ABC News. “Some have fangs about one centimeter long, so if they bite you they can do serious damage.”
Despite there already being a horrifying 6,600 arachnid species known to science living in Australia, this new spidery smorgasbord is a (un)welcome addition to the creepy catalog. As these new species have only just been discovered, there’s much about them that remains completely unknown, including precisely how venomous they are.
Trapdoor spiders spend most of their lives underground, so they are particularly difficult to even find and identify, let alone study in detail. Although it’s a broad estimate, these trapdoor spiders can live for around two decades. They are spread all across the state, from suburban forests and the Gold Coast hinterland to close by Rockhampton’s Capricorn Caves.
Wilson notes that some of their burrows are particularly intricate. One of the species, which lives near Gympie on the Sunshine Coast, has a particularly novel hideaway.
The turret-like burrow of one of the spiders is quite unusual. Jeremy Wilson
Normally, trapdoor burrows have a bath plug-like door, but this particular critter has turret-like traps that rise up from the landscape around them. “Currently, we don't know why this species makes such a strange burrow,” Wilson told IFLScience.
“Is it to camouflage? Is it to help it capture prey? We just don't know. Once each species is formally described and recognized, we can do further studies into these interesting species to answer these questions.”
Far from being mischievous monsters with eight hairy legs, these spiders are all thought to be important to the ecosystem of Queensland, and conservation efforts in the area improve along with each new species found. More than anything else, they are natural pest controlling organisms, meaning that they’re friends to those involved in agriculture, at the very least.
Still, if you see one, best not pick it up.
One of the 11 newly identified trapdoor spider species. Jeremy Wilson