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Wednesday, 8 July 2020

Scientists discover sinister 'trapdoor spiders' which lurk behind hinged doors - and they could be hidden in homes across Australia

  • Researchers have found a new group of trapdoor spiders in eastern Australia
  • They live in burrows so well disguised researchers did not find them for years
  • Scientists studied the spider's DNA and appearance to confirm the discovery
A new group of spiders that build burrows well-hidden by camouflaged hinge-doors has been discovered in eastern Australia.
Researchers say the new trapdoor spider group probably remained undiscovered until recently because their burrows are so well disguised by doors made of leaves, twigs and spider silk.
The spiders are widespread on Australia's east coast, says researcher and former Griffith University PhD student Jeremy Wilson.
A new species of trapdoor spiders that live in camouflaged burrows have been discovered along Australia's eastern coast
A new species of trapdoor spiders that live in camouflaged burrows have been discovered along Australia's eastern coast
The burrows are almost impossible to detect when the door is closed
Researchers said the burrows were incredible well disguised by doors made of leaves, twigs and spider silk. Pictured is the burrow covered and then open
Researchers said the burrows were incredibly well disguised by doors made of leaves, twigs and spider silk. Pictured is the burrow covered (left) and then open (right)
They are a separate genus to other trapdoor spiders.
'We compared their physical appearance and the burrows they construct and then looked for molecular differences in their DNA,' Dr Wilson said.
'We found differences in their physical appearance which allow them to be distinguished from other trapdoor spiders in eastern Australia.'
The researchers named the group of spiders Cryptoforis hughesae, meaning cryptic door, in reference to the hidden burrows.
The Cryptoforis group has almost 20 new species including one found in most forests and natural reserves in Brisbane.  
Researcher Jeremy Wilson (pictured) said he studied the DNA and appearance of the spider to determine it was a new species
Researcher Jeremy Wilson (pictured) said he studied the DNA and appearance of the spider to determine it was a new species 
Co-author and Queensland Museum Principal Curator of Arachnology Dr Michael Rix said the discovery proved the newly-described trapdoor spider was far more diverse and wide-spread than previously though.
The 'hughesae' part of the name of the spider is a reference to Dr Wilson's retired mentor and supervisor Emeritus Professor Jane Hughes.
Dr Wilson said he decided to name the spider after his mentor as a fitting tribute for everything she had done for him.
'Jane has had a huge impact on my development as a scientist, and no doubt on many others having mentored more than 70 postgraduate students and over 60 honours students,' Dr Wilson said. 

What is a trapdoor spider?

  • Trapdoor spiders live underground in burrows covered with doors made out of leaves or sticks to keep themselves hidden from predators
  • Their diet consists of many insets including crickets, moths, beetles and grasshoppers that they snatch from the edge of their burrow 
  • Their venom is not considered dangerous to humans and will usually cause mild pain or swelling          

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