since we’re heading out tomorrow on a four-week trip to the states, i’ll feature a nice big spider today – just in case i can’t keep up with the regular weekly dose of arachnids while we’re away.  this is the ‘avondale’ spider (in new zealand; or ‘flat huntsman’ in australia, where it’s native), Delena cancerides.  believed to have arrived in new zealand in the mid-1920s after hitching a ride over in railroad sleepers, it became established in avondale (and became a local icon) but has not spread much further.

avondales are interesting for several reasons, other than their impressive size (full legspan to 15+ cm).  they’re among the 1% of spiders that live in groups, perhaps because their preferred daytime habitat (under dry bark) is limited.  they don’t build webs, but hunt nocturnally.  they were featured in the film arachnophobia (though i’m not sure how enjoyable it was for them) – interestingly, the ones that starred were from new zealand, since they’re protected in australia and couldn’t be exported.  i believe i also heard that due to strict biosecurity regulations, those spiders (once exported) weren’t allowed back in, and so were cared for in a kind of spider retirement colony once their acting careers were over.

once again i have to pilfer photos from the interweb this week, having never come across a live avondale myself.  (someday, i hope!)  the one above is from wikipedia, (c) b. macquillan.  some more nice pics can be seen here (especially this one – with bonus spiderlings!), here, and also here.  sweet dreams.  >:)

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