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

Sunday, July 5, 2015
The scene in Tavistock Square, central London, after a bomb ripped through a double decker bus (Fiona Hanson/PA Wire)

London buses will stop and Tube passengers will be asked to observe a silence to mark the deaths of 52 people who died in the 7/7 terrorist attack 10 years ago.

Sunday, July 5, 2015
John Palmer was shot in the chest at his home

The family of John “Goldfinger” Palmer who was found murdered in his home say they have been “devastated” by his death.

Sunday, July 5, 2015
Wayne Powell was shot dead in east London

Police have offered a reward of £20,000 to solve a murder which took place five years ago in Chingford, east London.

Sunday, July 5, 2015
There's more hot weather on the way (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)

London is set for more very hot July weather but not before an unsettled few days of showers.

Friday, July 3, 2015
Lewisham Hospital (Picture: PA Images)

A woman from south-east London broke her elbow, went to A&E in Lewisham and then wrote this heartwarming ‘complaint’ letter to NHS staff about her time in hospital.

What is this?

Near You Now

Don't Miss...

Competitions

Good times with Greenall's!

Good times with Greenall’s, a Great British gin sponsors Great British racing.

Read more
Escape to the picturesque sights of Cornwall

Summer is finally here, and what is the number one holiday location in the UK during the warmer months? Cornwall, of course!

Read more
Adrenalin junkies, this one's for you!

An icon of British engineering and a consistent favourite of James Bond, there are few names quite as legendary in motoring as Aston Martin.

Read more