The Nelson Cave spider is the largest spider in New Zealand, and it gets its name from a cave where it lays its eggs in sacs dangling from the ceiling, each carrying roughly 50 spiderlings. However, only one such baby ball has been sighted in Nelson Cave since 2018, according to the Department of Conservation, and rangers are afraid that it could be the result of too many humans visiting their home.
Nelson Cave, also known as the “Crazy Paving Cave,” is a popular tourist destination due to its unusual floor pattern, which is the result of mud deposits drying up over time. The outcome is some rather bizarre paving, above which the eggs of Spelungula cavernicola are suspended.
Beetles and wt – enormous, flightless crickets that are some of the world’s heaviest insects and also happen to be S. cavernicola’s preferred prey – join the Nelson Cave spider in the darkness. You might think a predatory spider capable of annihilating the world’s henchest invertebrates is doing OK, but the species’ recent reproductive problems present a completely different picture.
In a statement, Department of Conservation senior biodiversity ranger Scott Freeman noted, “The number of spiders sighted has actually increased from around 2019 onwards, probably due to a fall in visitor numbers related with COVID.”
“However, since 2018, only one egg sac has been seen.”
Because the huge spiders of the Crazy Paving Cave are the only species of the Spelungula genus – which is far too fun to say – New Zealand is taking steps to conserve the country’s largest arachnids.
“Breeding is the long-term driver of the population,” Freeman added, “therefore we want to close the cave to see if this will allow breeding to improve.” “By closing the cave, we’ll be able to track how the spider population reacts to the loss of human visitors.”
Nelson Cave spiders, in addition to being huge arachnids, are regarded to be a missing link connecting Gondwana’s primordial spiders – from which S. cavernicola arose 350 million years ago, giving rise to today’s spiders. Because of this outstanding claim, they’ve become the only spider species protected under New Zealand’s 1953 Wildlife Act, and since they’ve been here a lot longer than we have, it’s only fair that they get to claim at least one cave.
If you like spiders in all their lanky, eggy glory, sometimes the best thing you can do is leave them alone. As a result, S. cavernicola has taken over the Crazy Paving Cave for the next 12 months, and we wish it luck with its baby-ball explosion.