China: Around The Nation

Chinese villager finds ‘cultural seal’ ... that turns out to be rare spider first recorded 1,000 years ago

Arachnid known as the Chinese hourglass trapdoor

PUBLISHED : Monday, 21 November, 2016, 2:03pm
UPDATED : Monday, 21 November, 2016, 2:18pm

A Chinese villager working in his garden was shocked to find a rare spider with an unusual flat patterned disc on its abdomen – sightings of which were first recorded in an ancient book written more than 1,000 years ago, mainland media reports.

He thought the unusual markings on the spider’s flat abdomen meant he had uncovered a cultural relic while working beside tangerine trees at his home in Pujiang county, near Chengdu, in Sichuan province.

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However, when he crouched down to take a closer look he saw it moving and realised it was actually an arachnid, the report said. He then put the spider inside a plastic bottle and took it home.

The spider, known as the Chinese hourglass trapdoor, or Cyclocosmia ricketti, was first identified and named in Southeast Asia in 1901. The species was first seen in mainland China in the mountainous area of Lushan county in Sichuan province in 2000.

Since then, only six sightings of the spider have been reported in the wild.

Researchers believe the spider, which has an abdomen with a truncated shape, like a seal, was the same species documented as “Dangdie” in a book, Book of Odes, comprising 305 different poems, which dates from the 11th to the seventh centuries BC.

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The spider was also recorded in a book about traditional Chinese media written during the Tang dynasty (618-907).

Females of the species are reportedly about 28mm long, with the diameter of the disc on the abdomen measuring 16mm.

Today the spiders are also artificially bred and kept as pets by some people.

Online sales of the rare spiders attract high prices, with one spider sold online for up to 12,000 yuan, the report said.

The villager was quoted as saying that he planned to sell the spider “for a good price”.