Spiders The Size Of Softballs Lurk Deep Inside Abandoned Mines In Mexico

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Spiked spiders the size of softballs hide in Mexico’s old mines.

Spiders the size of softballs live deep in Mexico’s abandoned mines, which draws spider lovers from all over the world. These amazing animals, which come from different groups, do best in the dark, isolated areas of caves and mines. This makes them even more interesting when people don’t bother them.

In Baja California Sur, Mexico, an abandoned mine was the first place where a very interesting species of mine spider was found. Its presence was first guessed when a discarded exoskeleton was found, which added a creepy element of mystery to the process of identifying it.

Jim Berrian, a field entomologist at the San Diego Natural History Museum and one of the researchers who helped describe this new species, talked about what he saw: “The first thing we found that showed this species existed was a shed exoskeleton in the cracks of a rock overhang.” The hard shell was unusually large, and the eyes told me it was a wandering spider from the Family Ctenidae, of which there are only a few kinds in Baja California Sur.

Mine spiders don’t get much beefier than Califorctenus cacachilensis. Image credit: jorgehvaldez via iNaturalist, CC BY-NC 4.0

The enormous mine spider was not only a new species, but also a whole new genus. It was named the Sierra Cacachilas wandering spider, and its formal name is Califorctenus cacachilensis. It is related to the famously poisonous Phoneutria fera, which is also from Brazil.

The Sierra Cacachilas wandering spider’s poison seems to have been passed down from its ancestors, which is good news. Berrian told a story from his own life: “I got bitten while handling a live specimen of Califorctenus cacachilensis, and I’m still alive.” We haven’t looked into how dangerous the poison is, but the Brazilian wandering spider is the most dangerous of the wandering spiders.

This mine spider is very big, which might make up for the fact that its poison isn’t as strong. Its body is about 2.5 centimetres (1 inch) thick and its legs are about 10 centimetres (4 inches) long and thin. Its size is about the same as a baseball. Because of the way its body is built, it can’t spin webs. Instead, it can scurry along the walls of abandoned mines and hunt smaller animals like rats.

It’s not completely strange that the Sierra Cacachilas wandering spider was found, since between 2 and 5 million insect and spider species have yet to be found. But it’s interesting that this huge spider wasn’t seen for a long time. Miners used to live in the abandoned mine where it was found, which suggests that they were close to these huge spiders.

For spiders that like to live in dark, winding caves and mines, the cave orb-weavers, whose formal name is Meta menardi, are big fans. These spiders, which are in the family Araneidae, hunt with silk, like Shelob in “The Lord of the Rings.”

Meta menardi uses its webs as tripwires to find millipedes, slugs, and flies that are moving by, even though they aren’t always sticky. The British Arachnological Society says that these spiders often live near the entrances to holes and mines in the UK. They are much smaller than the impressive C. cacachilsensis, but they are very good at hunting.

For some spiders, adapting to dark and remote places has gotten so bad that they have lost some organs that help them sense light. Seven new troglobitic species of the genus Tegenaria were found in caves in Israel earlier this year by scientists. Five of the newly discovered species had eyes that were not working properly, and the other two were totally blind. This adaptation shows how the lack of light has shaped their unique evolutionary path.

If the thought of mine spiders makes you feel uneasy, the easiest thing to do is to respect their homes and not bother them. These animals are very important to the environment because they help keep things in balance and keep pests under control.

It’s interesting that mine spiders can be found in more than just Mexico. Many species with interesting adaptations live in abandoned mines and holes around the world. Because these spiders live in dark places, they have developed special ways to hunt and sense things that help them do well when there is no light.

As people keep digging deeper into these secret underground worlds, they keep finding amazing things. Scientists and fans alike are interested in the abandoned mines and caves because they are mysterious and full of different things. They want to find out what secrets they hold.

The Brazilian wandering spider certainly looks very Shelob, but it’s more partial to the rainforest than a mine. Image credit: Margus Vilbas Photography / Shutterstock.com

So, the next time you find an old mine or cave opening, keep in mind that there may be more than just darkness inside. An interesting spider called the Sierra Cacachilas wandering spider and other amazing spiders may be quietly telling their complicated stories, waiting to be found and enjoyed.

Let’s enjoy the amazing world of mine spiders by recognising their unique adaptations and the important parts they play in the ecosystem. As we learn more about and discover these hidden worlds, we gain a greater appreciation for the amazing things that nature can do, even in the strangest and most remote places.

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