Rare Highgate Cemetery spider ‘one of the largest in the UK’

09:13 20 January 2013

The orb weaver spider Meta bourneti was found in Highgate Cemetery. File picture: Wild London/PA Wire

The orb weaver spider Meta bourneti was found in Highgate Cemetery. File picture: Wild London/PA Wire

A large, rare spider has been recorded living in Victorian tombs in Highgate Cemetery, conservationists have revealed.

The discovery of the orb weaver spider Meta bourneti in the burial place of philosopher Karl Marx, poet Christina Rossetti and novelist George Eliot among others, is the first time the species has been recorded in London.

London Wildlife Trust found the population of the spider, which measures more than 30mm including its leg span, in the vaults of the Egyptian Avenue at the cemetery while conducting a bat survey.

Tony Canning, from London Wildlife Trust, said: “The discovery of this important spider population in the heart of London shows just how valuable cemeteries such as Highgate can be in providing refuges for wildlife.”

The find is notable because most new discoveries of spider populations are for tiny species, whereas this spider is among the largest found in the UK, the trust said.

Due to its origins as a cave-dwelling spider, the species requires total darkness, with even night time outside light levels too bright for it.

The sealed vaults, which have not been opened for several years, provide the perfect home for the spider, which also requires a constant temperature and damp conditions.

Elsewhere in the UK the species, which preys on small insects and woodlice, is found in sewers, old cellars and abandoned railway tunnels.

London Wildlife Trust said that, as the tombs where it was found date back to the 1830s, it is possible that the population of spiders have lived there undetected for at least 150 years.

And a relatively large number of individuals have been found, with initial estimates putting the number of adults at as many as 100. The trust said more research would now be carried out to assess the population.

Sign up for our news alerts today!

Our editors' picks for the day's top news delivered to your inbox or phone.

Sign up for email alerts Sign up for mobile alerts
1
2 3 4 5 6
7

Latest London news

Friday, May 22, 2015
Police are 'extremely concerned' for Kaylie, who is believed to be in the company of Fred Finch [Photographs from Metropolitan Police]

Detectives are appealing for the public’s help to trace a vulnerable 16-year-old girl who has gone missing and is believed to be in the company of an older man.

Friday, May 22, 2015
(Picture:: PA)

There are severe delays on the Central Line after a woman was hit by a Tube train.

Friday, May 22, 2015
The body was found near Eel Pie Island [Photograph from Google StreetView]

The dead body of a man was found in the river today near Eel Pie Island.

Friday, May 22, 2015
Frank Heweston was locked up for three months in Russia (Pic credit: Adam Thomas)

A Greenpeace activist from Queen’s Park who was detained for nearly three months in a Russian jail is set to see his story on the big screen.

Friday, May 22, 2015
The woman was dragged through the gates of Brockwell Park in Brixton and raped

A 41-year-old woman was dragged into Brockwell Park in Herne Hill, near Brixton, before being raped by two men.

Breaking News

Friday, May 22, 2015

There are severe delays on the Central Line after a woman was hit by a Tube train.

Read more

What is this?

Near You Now

Don't Miss...

Competitions

You could take in stunning views of London over brunch at the Sky Garden

Celebrate lighter, brighter days with the chance of winning an indulgent brunch for two with a bottle of bubbles at Darwin, the cool and casual brasserie 36 floors up at Sky Garden.

Read more