The trap door spider
The trap door spider
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Trap door spiders are hairy and harmless and hang around 10 years if they don’t meet the business end of a shoe.


Often mistaken for their first cousin, the tarantula, and lumped in under the species Androdiaetus riversi, the tunnel-burrowing creepy crawler is finally having its day in the sun, with the recent discovery of several new types that highlight California’s rich biodiversity.


SDSU biologist Marshal Hedin, with former student James Starrett, studies and collects trap-door spiders because of their lengthy lifespan, sedentary lifestyle and unique habitat. They build turrets from which they can easily surprise their prey.


Using nuclear and mitochondrial DNA sequences, the researchers recently discovered more to love about the artful arachnid.


“The discovery of five distinct species in our study provides novel insight into how we perceive the evolution and diversity of trapdoor spiders in California,” Hedin said. “It also demonstrates how California is a ‘hot spot’ for biological diversity – there are more native plant and animal species here than in any other comparable region in North America.”


Despite California’s diversity, only a fraction of native species are known. Geological events such as rising mountain ranges, the presence of inland sea-ways, fluctuating climates and plate shifting have made discoveries like this one difficult to come by.


“Study of this diversity will allow researchers to piece together a complete picture of the history and evolutionary diversity that makes California such a rich and special place,” Hedin said.

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