Cryptic Resurrection: Rare Trapdoor Spider Emerges After 92-Year Vanishing Act

In a remarkable turn of events, the elusive Fagilde’s trapdoor spider (Nemesia berlandi) has reemerged in a small Portuguese village after a mysterious absence spanning an astonishing 92 years. First documented in 1931 in the northern Portuguese village of Fagilde, this unique species of trapdoor spider, known for its cryptic nature, had seemingly vanished from the scientific radar until recently.

Entomologists first laid eyes on Fagilde’s trapdoor spider in 1931, discovering a pair of females just outside the quaint village. Described as having deep-brown bodies, these females were estimated to grow up to 2.2 centimeters long. Belonging to the Nemesiidae family of trapdoor spiders, the species constructs burrows featuring hinged doors designed to ensnare unsuspecting prey. Intriguingly, despite the initial discovery, no adult male N. berlandi had ever been observed, leaving scientists to speculate on their behavior based on closely related spiders. It is believed that males engage in a rhythmic tap dance at a female’s door to court a mate.

After the initial discovery in 1931, Fagilde’s trapdoor spider seemed to have vanished, leading to its classification as a lost species in scientific records. The spider’s elusive nature makes it particularly challenging to detect due to its ability to blend seamlessly with its surroundings using its trapdoor, resembling natural elements like leaves or moss.

In 2011, Sérgio Henriques and his colleagues discovered a series of horizontal burrows in the vicinity of Fagilde, hinting at the possibility that N. berlandi might be unique within its family for its horizontal burrow construction, deviating from the typically vertical structures of its relatives.

After two years of dedicated expeditions in the area, the researchers experienced a breakthrough when they stumbled upon a distinctive horizontal burrow. To their amazement, they uncovered a deep-brown female spider accompanied by its offspring, closely resembling the original 1931 description of Fagilde’s trapdoor spider.

Describing the discovery, Henriques expressed, “The finding was pretty much like winning the lottery while getting hit by lightning.” To validate that the rediscovered spider was indeed N. berlandi, the researchers conducted DNA analysis, confirming that it differed from any other known trapdoor spider species.

This serendipitous rediscovery has significant implications for conservation efforts. Fagilde’s trapdoor spider inhabits an area increasingly threatened by wildfires and floods. Sérgio Henriques and his team hope that the newfound knowledge about the spider’s existence will catalyze conservation initiatives to protect this unique and vulnerable species.

In essence, the reappearance of Fagilde’s trapdoor spider after nearly a century adds a fascinating chapter to the annals of arachnology, highlighting the resilience and adaptability of nature’s most enigmatic creatures.

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