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Rare Giant Spider Species Thought to be Extinct Reappears in Britain After 27 Years

Representative image.

Representative image.

The spider species is a nocturnal predator. With eight eyes to give it a perfect 360 vision, it is famous for its agility and speed. It was formerly described as endangered and finally as extinct in 1993, after its last known appearance.

A great spider species, thought to be extinct, was spotted in Britain last week. The great fox-spider was spotted on a Ministry of Defence training ground in Surrey. It hasn’t been seen in the country for over 27 years.

The spider species is a nocturnal predator. With eight eyes to give it a perfect 360 vision, it is famous for its agility and speed. It was formerly described as endangered and finally as extinct in 1993, after its last known appearance. It has been spotted at two sites in Morden Heath in Dorset. Both of these locations, and Surrey, are relatively warmer regions of the country.

The discoverer, Mike Waite, trawled for two years to locate the evasive species. Working for the Surrey Wildlife Trust, he turned toward the military ground. According to the Guardian, the exact location is not named due to security reasons.

“As soon as my torch fell on it, I knew what it was. I was elated. With coronavirus there have been lots of ups and downs this year, and I also turned 60, so it was a good celebration of that. It’s a gorgeous spider, if you’re into that kind of thing,” Waite said.

The great fox-spider belongs to the wolf-spider family and is around 5cm long. They are hunters. Unlike other spiders who lay webs to catch prey, these arachnids chase small insects like beetles or even smaller spiders and inject them with a deadly venom. The poison is so awful that the internal organs of the prey liquefy. The spider also has fangs, but fear not, it poses no risks to humans.

Waite used aerial photos of the ground to spot sandy patches among the shrubbery, which suits the spider’s ambush-hunt style. He found one female and several males and some immature spiderlings.

A TV presenter in Britain called it “the most exciting thing to happen in wildlife circles for quite some time.”

The fox-spider is a native of the island. It was discovered 120 years ago but seen only a few times. They are big enough but because of their nocturnal nature and excellent brown camouflage, they are rarely seen, even when they were not considered endangered. They dig holes and burrows under rocks during the winter. They line it with ‘silk’ and then go into hibernation.


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