Whilst this may, in fact, be the least exciting thing you can think of happening, or perhaps exciting purely because of the adrenaline that would start pumping as you run back in the room and scream for help, Mike was ecstatic.
This was a very special spider. It was a male of the Aganippe genus, which Mike is currently working on. These rather large and impressive looking spiders are pretty cool – they can live longer than your dog, and build burrows in the ground from which they hunt prey (omnomnom insects).
Whilst Mike was very lucky, the spider was rather unlucky… since he was nearly dead anyway, he was sacrificed for science and collected in ethanol to preserve his DNA.
Another Ph.D. student in our lab, Sophie, works on trapdoor spiders too, so this awesome find spurred a night-time spider hunt out in the bush. Armed with as many layers of clothing as we could find, beanies, head torches, and optimism, we set off down the trail in search of male trapdoor spiders.
Unfortunately luck was not with us, and not a male trapdoor was in sight. We did find some cool burrows with wolf spiders in them, and a sweet huntsman, but eventually gave up and returned to camp for sticky date pudding.
We’re going to chat to Sophie about her spider research soon, so stay tuned!