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‘Tarantula species’ spotted in Cambridgeshire

A nationally scare tarantula-related species has been spotted in Cambridgeshire, the Wildlife Trust has revealed.

Noa Leach, for the trust, said: “On the eve of Halloween, while out conducting drone surveys near Fulbourn, monitoring and research manager Josh Hellon experienced an aptly timed real-life spooky moment when a rare spider crawled across his path.

A male purse web spider. Picture: Josh Hellon
A male purse web spider. Picture: Josh Hellon

“A dark spider with large jaws and chunky body, it was a male purse web spider – though harmless, the purse web spider, Atypus affinis, is the only tarantula-related species found in the UK.

“A recognised nationally scarce species, this unusual arachnid is rarely seen above ground; they spend most of their lives living in tube webs in undisturbed chalk banks.”

The Wildlife Trust in Cambridgeshire urged people to report any interesting species to local records centres, as it helps contribute vital data for conservation purposes.

Visit wildlifebcn.org/record-centres for more on these.

Purse web spiders are in the Orthognatha sub-order. The word means ‘straight-jawed’ and other species in the suborder include tarantulas, trap-door spiders and funnel web spiders.

The Spider and Harvestman Recording Scheme website reports just 620 records of purse web spider in the country.

It notes: “There has been a large apparent decline, hence a watching brief should be kept on this species. It is generally scarce and very local. Large populations have been recorded but it is likely that much of our modern landscape supports only small isolated colonies.”

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