© 2020 WFAE
90.7 Charlotte 93.7 Southern Pines 90.3 Hickory 106.1 Laurinburg
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
Science & Environment

World's Oldest Spider Dies At 43

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

We're going to take a moment to remember the long life of a spider. She was 43, thought to have been the world's oldest spider. And her demise didn't have to happen the way it did.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

So details - her name was Number 16, and she lived in Australia. She was observed almost her entire life by researchers in a study that began in 1974 when she was just an itsy-bitsy spider. News of her death came in a scientific journal.

CORNISH: Number 16 was a trapdoor spider. They're usually a few centimeters long. They're hairy, and they typically have a life span between five and 20 years.

KELLY: Typically, but this spider could have lived even longer than her 43 years.

CORNISH: Her death was not only unexpected but said to be gruesome. Number 16 died from a parasitic wasp attack.

KELLY: The wasp had gotten into the spider's burrow. A researcher told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation that wasps lay eggs on or near spiders. Then the larva eats the spider from the inside out or the outside in.

CORNISH: Yeah, so that's gross.

KELLY: (Laughter).

CORNISH: And there was no way out for poor Number 16. Female trapdoor spiders never leave their burrows. As a result of their sedentary lifestyles, their metabolism is slow. That's part of what researchers were studying - what sustained their extensive lifespans.

KELLY: And so Number 16 leaves behind a legacy of research with her 43 years. She outlived the critter that previously held the title of oldest known spider. That would be a mere 28-year-old Mexican tarantula. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.