A species of spider, thought to only move a few metres in its entire life, may actually have crossed the Indian Ocean to get to Australia, new research suggests.
The trapdoor spider Moggridgea Rainbow is found only on South Australia’s Kangaroo Island, and was originally thought to have “split” from its South African relations when the giant land masses separated millions of years ago.
Research by the University of Adelaide now suggests the spider is much more closely related to its South African counterpart and probably crossed the Indian Ocean to get here.
PhD student Sophie Harrison says the genetic link between the two types of spiders is much stronger, meaning the spiders had to have travelled to Australia after it was formed as a continent but prior to human inhabitants.
“Rafting is the best hypnosis that fits the situation,” Harrison said.
“It seems like a really strange concept but in a lot of ways they are much better adapted to dispersing in that way than mammals or other vertebrates; they have a stable burrow and a low metabolic rate they don’t need much food.”
Researchers theorise the spiders made the 10,000km trip across the ocean on large chunks of land or vegetation that were washed out to sea.
The spiders, which measure about the size of a 10c piece, hatch close to the ocean on Kangaroo Island and set up burrows nearby, where they stay for the rest of their lives, only lunging out of their trapdoors at night to catch prey. AAP