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World's oldest spider, a trapdoor, dies at age 43

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The 43-year-old trapdoor spider known as Number 16 helped scientists better understand how environmental stresses could impact the species.

Curtin University

Not since the beloved spider of the classic kid's book Charlotte's Web died has an arachnid's demise caused such heartache. 

A spider named nicknamed Number 16 and believed to be the world's oldest, has passed away at the age of 43. The female Giaus Villosus, commonly known as a trapdoor spider, died while being observed in the wild for a long-term spider population study in Western Australia.

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"To our knowledge this is the oldest spider ever recorded, and her significant life has allowed us to further investigate the trapdoor spider's behavior and population dynamics," Leanda Mason, a Ph.D. student from the School of Molecular and Life Sciences at Australia's Curtin University, said in a statement Friday announcing the spider's death

Mason is also lead author of research on spiders in the Australian outback published in Pacific Conservation Biology. 

Dying at the ripe old age of 43 is impressive considering most trapdoor spiders only live to be 20.

Other commonly found spiders don't often see senior-citizen status. The southern black widow lives to be 2 years old, the brown recluse spider lives to be 4 and the wolf spider lives for less than a year. 

Bigger spiders seem to stick around longer. The goliath birdeater and various breeds of tarantulas can live to be up to 25. The next oldest known spider is a 28-year-old tarantula found in Mexico.

The scientists who studied Number 16 say she helped them understand how the stresses of climate change and deforestation could impact the species.

They also say they're heartbroken by the spider's death. 

"We're really miserable about it, Mason told the Telegraph. "We were hoping she could have made it to 50 years old."

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