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Topic: Nelson cave spider

Is part of topic What spider is that?

Scientific name: Spelungula cavernicola

What do they look like?

New Zealand's largest spider in terms of leg span, which can be up to fifteen centimetres. These spiders are mottled light brown in colour with very long legs. The first two pairs of legs each bear a very long claw. Large species of sheetweb spiders are smaller but superficially similar, so are sometimes mistaken for this species.

Where are they found?

They are known only from certain caves in the Nelson and Buller regions. As noted above, large sheetweb spiders are sometimes mistaken for this species. However, unlike sheetweb spiders, Nelson cave spiders won’t be encountered around homes and gardens.

What are their habits?

Spelungula cavernicola is one of New Zealand's largest spiders. Due to its rarity and restricted habitat, it became the first species of spider to be protected under the Wildlife Act.

These spiders are hunters and are known to feed on cave wētā (Gymnoplectron sp.). Once the spider has located its prey, it drops on top of it. The spider remains secured to the wall via a drag line, and uses this to carry its prey away. With its feet off the ground, the weta is unable to jump away to safety.

Spelungula cavernicola produces large, almost spherical, egg sacs that are suspended from cave ceilings on a thread.

What is their bite like?
One bite has been recorded. The bite was described as painful but no other effects were reported.

On display at Te Papa?

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