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Sunday, February 28, 2021

Spider thought to be extinct in Britain discovered on Ministry of Defence training site

One of the UK’s most endangered spider species has been seen for the first time in 25 years at a Ministry of Defence training area by the Surrey Wildlife Trust.

The Great Fox-Spider was feared extinct in the UK, and since the 1990’s it has only ever been found at three sites in Dorset and Surrey. But spider enthusiast Mike Waite did not give up hope, and was rewarded for his faith when he discovered several mature males and a female on a Ministry of Defence training area.

“I am naturally over the moon to have finally proved the continued existence of the Great Fox-Spider in the UK” Mr Waite said.

“Although I’ve always held a latent interest in spiders, as a bona-fide arachnologist, I am still a relative newbie, so am doubly pleased to have made this important contribution to our scientific knowledge.”

Ground dwelling and largely nocturnal, with excellent eyesight, camouflage and speed, the Great Fox-Spider is one of the largest of the Wolf-Spider Lycosidae family of spiders.

An opportunistic predator that hunts at night, it is named for its wolf-like habit of chasing down its prey before pouncing and capturing insects on the run.

It has three rows of eyes – two on the top of the head, two at the front, and four smaller eyes above the mouth.

Great Fox-Spiders immobilise their prey, including insects such as beetles, ants and smaller spiders, by injecting them with venom, which liquifies the internal organs of the insect. 

The arachnid then feasts on its catch using its strong, fang-bearing front appendages, known as ‘chelicerae’.

News of the spiders discovery was also greeted with delight by the president of the British Arachnological Society Nick Baker who said: “It’s about as handsome as a spider gets, it’s big and now it’s officially a member of the British fauna again.”

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