A newly discovered species of saddleback trapdoor spider found. Photograph: Suppki/AAP
Thirteen new species of spider have been discovered on Queensland’s Cape York peninsula – adding to the thousands of known species that give Australian wildlife its fearsome reputation.
The new species were found by scientists, teachers and Indigenous rangers during a 10-day journey to the largely unsurveyed area.
The survey is called the Bush Blitz and is a combined project of the Australian government, BHP Billiton Sustainable Communities and Earthwatch Australia.
Maribyrnong primary school teacher Leslie Carr says she signed up to search the Olkola people’s traditional lands so she could relay her adventures to her students.
“It was a lot of digging, I was amazed,” Carr told reporters.
“I thought I’d get up there and they’d be crawling around. But they go down 20 to 30cm.”
Seven new species of Australian spider discovered including unique tarantula
The team used abalone knives to dig into the hard earth before swapping them for pen knives when they got closer to a silk-lined burrow.
The hard work paid off, with the discovery of the 13 new spider species which include a brush-footed trapdoor spider and the newly christened mouse spider, which lives in a stocking-shaped web.
Then there were the tarantulas. “There were ones as big as your hand, about 20 of them,” Carr said.
Now back home, the science teacher says the savannah-like environment was dotted with termite mounds and very dry.
“I’ve had kids coming up saying, ‘Oh, how could you let a spider crawl all over you?’” she says. “I tell them it was scary, but if you don’t threaten the spider, he’s not going to bite you.”