Rare spiders found in the Avon Valley

Friday, 1st May 2009






Scientists say they’ve found new populations of threatened trapdoor spiders in the Avon River Basin. Trapdoor spiders are one of the oldest in the arachnid family but are under threat from factors including habitat loss, salinity and uncontrolled grazing. Four threatened species are found in the Avon Valley. The Avon Catchment Council has been funding the Back From the Edge project to locate and monitor populations of these invertebrates since 2005. The work is being carried out in partnership between the Department of Environment and Conservation and WWF - Australia. The Department’s fauna conservation officer Rowan Inglis and ecologist Mick Davis are both working on the project. “Trapdoor spiders are relics from the Gondwanan period and the project has uncovered several new populations and possibly new species right here in the wheatbelt,” Rowan Inglis said. The monitoring program has been helped along by volunteers across the valley from Merredin to Minnivale, using satellite technology or GPS to pinpoint burrows. “Their unique burrows are so well hidden people often just don’t notice them, in fact the spiders rely on their camouflage to avoid natural predators,” Mick Davis said. Many trapdoor spiders disguise their burrows with doors made of dry leaves, twigs and lichens, with some females living up to 20 years in the same burrow. “Over the last four years DEC and WWF have trained volunteers to identify the unique trapdoor burrows,” Mick Davis said. “New populations have been discovered in the shires of Koorda, Merredin, Mt Marshall, Wongan Hills, Wyalkatchem and beyond. “Community members have even discovered trapdoors spiders we’ve never seen before, that could possibly be entirely new species. “We are keen for people to help identify new populations so we can learn more about these threatened species and bring them back from the edge of extinction.” People living in the Wongan Hills area will have the chance to learn about and search for the spiders on Wednesday, May 6th as part of DEC’s Wongan Hills Ecoscape project. Mick Davis will give a talk about trapdoors before heading out into the bush to find and identify them. For more information on the spider walk and talk RSVP Margaret Redfern 9622 8940 margaret.redfern@dec.wa.gov.au Media contact: Mick Davis, Ecologist, Department of Environment and Conservation, 0429 473 567