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Big Fox: Endangered British spider seen for the first time in 27 years


One of Britain's most endangered spiders, the great fox, was sighted for the first time in more than a quarter of a century.

Conservationists report the sighting of a total of 22 Great Fox spiders, including 10 mature men and one mature woman whose diameter, including its hairy, spiky legs, is a little over 55 mm.

The specimens were found by Mike Waite, a spider lover with the Surrey Wildlife Trust, at a Department of Defense training site in Surrey.

The great fox (alopecosa fabrilis) is considered "critically endangered" and was feared to be extinct in Great Britain because it has not been discovered since 1993.

The species has excellent eyesight, camouflage, and speed, and is an opportunistic predator that hunts at night, the Trust says.

It is named for its fox-like habit of chasing prey over sandy terrain, gravel, and rocks before tumbling and catching it while trying to escape.

Prey, including insects like beetles, ants, and smaller spiders, become immobilized after the great fox injects them with venom that liquefies their internal organs.

Large fox spiders have excellent eyesight with all-round vision provided by eight black eyes on their head. Pictured one of the males

22 LARGE FOX SPIDERS FOUND IN SURREY

A total of 22 Great Fox spiders were found:

Three women

– An adult female a little over 55 mm in diameter.

– Two immature women.

19 men

– 10 adult men

– Nine immature men.

The specimens were found during different visits to the same location in August and September this year.

The spider is then ready to enjoy its catch with its strong, muzzle-bearing front limbs, the chelicerae.

Waite had never given up hope of finding the monster spider and had searched with a torch for hours late at night for the past two years.

The specimens were eventually found on MoD land managed by the Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust.

"The spider is at the very edge of its range in the UK, which is responsible for its super rarity here," said Waite.

“ This formidable-looking creature is a formidable animal, perfectly camouflaged and also largely nocturnal, and for all its size, it was remarkably elusive.

“I am of course overjoyed to have finally proven the survival of the Great Fox spider in the UK.

"Although, as a bona fide arachnologist, I have always had a latent interest in spiders, I am still a relative newcomer. I am therefore doubly pleased to have made this important contribution to our scientific knowledge."

The ground-dwelling and largely nocturnal species is one of the largest in the family of the wolf spider Lycosidae.

As protection, it digs caves or holes under rocks and tree trunks and forms a silk-lined building as a retreat for the winter.

A total of 22 spiders were found, including a large mature woman and 10 mature men.

Jo Foat of the Surrey Wildlife Trust told MailOnline: “Men have slightly smaller bodies and longer legs, but they are the same size.

Pictured the mature woman. A total of 22 spiders were found, including the tall mature woman and 10 mature men

Pictured the mature woman. A total of 22 spiders were found, including the tall mature woman and 10 mature men

Pictured is Mike Waite of the Surrey Wildlife Trust in search of the Great Fox spider, last sighted in 1993

Pictured is Mike Waite of the Surrey Wildlife Trust in search of the Great Fox spider, which was last sighted in 1993

& # 39; The Great Fox spider is large and bulky in terms of the size of its body and the thickness of its legs.

"It's about the size of a giant house spider, but has a smaller body and longer, thinner legs."

Great Fox spiders have excellent eyesight with all-round visibility thanks to eight incredible black eyes on their head or cephalothorax.

Two large eyes glitter from the top of the head, two more eyes stare forward, and four smaller eyes form a row just above the spider's mouth.

"The 'Great' prefix doesn't seem to do it justice – maybe it should be the Fabulous or Fantastic Fox Spider," said Nick Baker, naturalist, television presenter and president of the British Arachnological Society.

Pictured another man. The Great Fox Spider is on the Red List as Critically Endangered and has been feared extinct in the UK as it has only been found in three locations, two in Dorset and the other in Surrey, but not seen since it began became 1990s

Pictured another man. The Great Fox Spider is on the Red List as Critically Endangered and has been feared extinct in the UK as it has only been found in three locations, two in Dorset and the other in Surrey, but not seen since it began became 1990s

"Even if the backstory of its rarity and rediscovery was not taken into account, this spider is mega."

"It looks about as good as a spider, it's big, and now it's officially a member of the British fauna again."

Indeed, the rediscovery of the Great Fox spider is the most exciting thing that has happened in wildlife circles in quite a while. I'm glad it's in safe hands. "

The species had only been found in three locations so far – two in Dorset and one in Surrey – but wasn't seen again until 2020.

Waite now plans to continue its study to measure the size of the Great Fox population.

Mature woman. The species is ground-dwelling and largely nocturnal, but Mike Waite, a spider lover at the Surrey Wildlife Trust, had never given up hope of finding the monster spider

Mature woman. The species is ground-dwelling and largely nocturnal, but Mike Waite, a spider lover at the Surrey Wildlife Trust, had never given up hope of finding the monster spider

Mature woman. With excellent eyesight, camouflage, and speed, the great fox spider Alopecosa fabrilis is one of the largest of the wolf spider Lycosidae spider family

Mature woman. With excellent eyesight, camouflage, and speed, the great fox spider Alopecosa fabrilis is one of the largest of the wolf spider Lycosidae spider family

Mature woman. Not only are Great Fox Spiders incredibly agile and fast-paced, they also have excellent vision with all-round visibility provided by eight black eyes on the head or cephalothorax

Mature woman. Not only are Great Fox Spiders incredibly agile and fast-paced, they also have excellent eyesight with all-round visibility provided by eight black eyes on the head or cephalothorax

Male. Large fox spiders immobilize their prey, including insects like beetles, ants, and smaller spiders, by injecting them with venom that liquefies the insect's internal organs

Male. Large fox spiders immobilize their prey, including insects like beetles, ants, and smaller spiders, by injecting them with venom that liquefies the insect's internal organs

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