German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN)


Rare find: Tarantula relative on Vilm

Tubular web of Atypus Affilis | Photo: Christoph Muster
Photo: Christoph Muster
Atypus Affilis | Photo: Christoph Muster
Photo: Christoph Muster

Putbus/Isle of Vilm, 7 April 2020: Spider expert Dr. Christoph Muster made a rare discovery last week on the isle of Vilm: He was able to confirm the presence of the spider species Atypus affinis on the island. According to the biologist, the last evidence of this species in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern dates back more than 30 years.

Atypus affinis, from the family of purseweb spiders, is considered extremely rare and endangered in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern (Rote Liste der Spinnen Mecklenburg-Vorpommerns, Martin 2012). Germany-wide it is listed as near-threatened species. Purseweb spiders belong in a broader sense to the group of tarantulas and are the only mygalomorph spiders in Central Europe. Here are found three species of purseweb spiders. Atypus affinis is the smallest of them.

The approximately 10–15 millimetre large spiders are only discovered by very attentive observers. Unlike their relatives, they do not weave flat webs, but live hiding in earth tubes that reach about 20 to 45 centimetres into the ground. Atypus affinis covers the walls of its earth tube with spider silk. The tubular web is extended up to 15 centimetres above the earth's surface and disguised with moss and soil. The spiders sit inside and wait for insects to crawl over the tube. On concussion, the spider grabs its prey and drags them inside. In 2013 Atypus affinis was named Europe's Spider of the Year by the Arachnological Society (AraGes).

Atypus affinis lives in warm and dry places such as semi-dry grasslands, vineyards or sparse pine forests. Dr. Muster has discovered the spider under the fallen bark of a dying oak tree at the southern cliff on the Isle of Vilm. As part of an investigation by the State Office for Environment, Nature Conservation and Geology of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, he came to the island at the end of March to check the current status of a known colony of Atypus affinis on Vilm. The results will be included in a distribution atlas of spiders in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.