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.
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.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.