Nelson cave spider 

Nelson cave spider. Photographed by Andrew McLachlan. © Andrew McLachlan

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.

Where are they found?

Certain caves in the Nelson and Buller regions.

What are their habits?

Not only is Spelungula cavernicola one of New Zealand's largest spiders. Because of 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 wētā 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?