Spider species driven to extinction by Australian bushfires

  • ASEAN+
  • Saturday, 18 Jan 2020

CANBERRA: An ancient species of spider is feared extinct as a result of Australia's bushfire crisis.

The Zephyrarchaea austini, a species of assassin spider, has only ever been found on Kangaroo Island off the coast of South Australia.

According to leading expert Michael Rix from the Queensland Museum, who discovered the species, its habitat has now been destroyed by bushfires that burned more than a third of the island.

"It's only known from the...northwest of the island," he said, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on Saturday.

"As far as we know that area was significantly impacted. We're very concerned that they may have been gravely impacted if not wiped out."

Assassin spiders, also known as pelican spiders, measure only two mm tall and date back to the Jurassic period more than 140 million years ago.

Rix said that while some spiders can burrow to escape the threat of fires, assassin spiders live on the forest floor.

"They're really only found in rainforests and wet complex habitats," he said.

"As far as we know, the only way they can deal with fire is if there are untouched patches of habitat. Our biggest concern with the Kangaroo Island fire is that it was so destructive and so hot.

"Our concern is that the entirety of their range was burnt."

Much of the island's diverse wildlife has been devastated by the fires, with fears also held for half of its koala population of about 50,000.

Rix said that deaths of insects and spiders would be more significant than those of koalas and kangaroos.

"Small animals are the foundation of healthy ecosystems," he said.

"Insects are crucial in all food webs in any major habitat on Earth and spiders are major predators of insects." - Xinhua/Asian News Network
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Spider Specia , Ancient , Extinct , Australia , Bushfires


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