I am not an Arachnophobe; I don’t really mind spiders and am not terrified of them – to be honest that does not mean I would like a whole lot of them crawling all over me – but on the whole I think they are a vital and fascinating part of the natural world.
So I was interested when an ‘old, very rare’ spider was found in Sichuan Province a few days ago. What really caught my attention was how it looked.
Li Wenhua found it on his small farm in Pujiang county, Sichuan Province – down in the south west of China. He thought he had spotted an ancient relic on the ground below his orange trees, it was only when he went to pick it up that he realised it was a spider. The spider has a very distinctive ‘plate’ on its abdomen, and the plate which is about the size of a small coin, has a very unusual pattern on it which appears similar to a carving. You can see why Li Wenhua thought he had found some kind of cultural artifact lying on the ground,
The spider in question is a Chinese Hourglass Spider (Cyclocosmia Ricketti), which is a member of the group called ‘Trapdoor spiders’. The females are approximately 28 mm long and the ‘disc’ has a radius of 16mm. This specimen is only the 6th to be seen since 2000.
Trapdoor spiders live in the ground, they build a trap lined with their ‘silk’, and when some creature that they fancy eating goes past they rush out, inject them with venom and haul them back into their trap hole for a tasty dinner.
This species of spider was first documented in China over a thousand years ago, and is thought to be the spider referred to in some Chinese literature. In China a spider is considered an auspicious symbol – there are a couple of words for spider in Chinese, and one of them is xizi 虫喜 子 where the first character has the same pronunciation as the word for happy – xi 喜 .
We are constantly being told that mankind has damaged the natural world so badly that whole species are becoming extinct day by day, so it is encouraging to find such a small creature, that, despite the odds – pesticides, pollution, growing populations, erosion of habitats etc – is still hanging in there. I reckon that insects will survive long after the human race has perished!
At the moment all I can think is ‘ain’t Nature wonderful’ – what a world we live in, we must take care of it.