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Trapdoor Spider Discoveries: Here's What You Need to Know

Sep 01, 2016 04:56 AM EDT

Living underground and out of sight, venomous trapdoor spiders have managed to escape close scrutiny up until recently. Jeremy Wilson, a PhD at Griffith University, collaborated with Queensland Museum to bring trapdoor spiders into the public eye as part of a planned display.

During their search for specimens, they found multiple new species of trapdoor spiders in some unexpected places. Previously, only four species of golden trapdoor spiders were known. Wilson believes he has discovered at least 10 more species, just in southeast Queensland.

The spiders range from the Cape York to Lamington National Park. One of the new species had a unique way of building their trapdoor, with the door sticking up and leaflets on the side.

"We believe there are many more undiscovered species out there," Wilson said in a release. "The really cool thing about them is that they're really long lived and they don't move much, they live in these holes their entire life. What that means is it's really easy for populations to become isolated and become new species."

Most trapdoor spider bites are painful but not dangerous to humans, though the venom of the newly discovered species has not been studied so it's possible they are harmful. Trapdoor spiders can be aggressive if handled and should be left alone.

The news of trapdoor spiders living in backyards should not cause alarm -- they're helpful neighbors to have. Trapdoor spiders are an important part of the ecosystem and keep the small pest population under control.

Wilson is concerned about the conservation of the various trapdoor species. Since many may exist unbeknownst to scientist, a real concern is that they could become extinct without anyone ever knowing they were there.

Having isolated groups of spiders that evolve into different species offers great opportunities for further studies. Knowing why evolution and different species happen will let scientists predict the impact of climate change and deforestation on the spiders, Wilson added.

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