Proshermacha telaporta

A research team led by Dr Mark Harvey from the Western Australian Museum’s Terrestrial Zoology department has discovered two new species of trapdoor spiders, bringing the total of named trapdoor spiders to over 200 in WA.

The other researchers, Dr Jeremy Wilson from the University of Western Australia, and Dr Michael Rix from the Queensland Museum, assisted in the study.

One species, newly called Proshermacha telaporta, occurs north of Perth near Cataby and Regans Ford. The name of the species was suggested by the Klines family (Jenny, Marcus, Jacob, and Ella) as part of the "A Night at the Museum Silent Auction" organised by the Foundation for the Western Australian Museum. It is a Latin word referring to the silken burrow entrance of these spiders.

The other species, Proshermacha robertblosfeldsi, is only known from the Pemberton region of Western Australia where it occurs in jarrah and marri forests.

Dr Harvey said that while all trapdoor spiders dig burrows in which they hide to surprise their prey, the trapdoor fauna of Western Australia is very diverse.

“Many trapdoor spiders build hinged-doors over their chambers. However, the newly named spiders are like other open-holed trapdoor spider species which leave their burrows uncovered.

“Not having a lid over their burrows has given researchers the advantage of looking into their living chambers and gaining insight into their feeding habits.

“While all spiders suck fluids from their prey and leave the husks, a fascinating trait with open-hole trapdoor spiders is that they make a side chamber in their burrow where they discard the parts of their prey they haven’t eaten,” Dr Harvey said.

Male trapdoor spiders become mature after about five or six years when they leave their burrow and search for females during the mating season. Females are longer lived. However, Dr Harvey notes that very little is known about the biology of the new species.

“Now that they are formally named, this will help focus attention on their distribution and habitat needs.”

Although fearsome in appearance Dr Harvey suggests that they have never been recorded biting humans and that a bite might be less painful than a bee sting.

There are more than 20,000 species of spiders in Australia, with 12,000 named spiders known to Western Science. Dr Harvey has been instrumental in naming more than 700 of them.