In the first Living World of the autumn run, Chris Sperring travels to Exeter to find a species hidden within the walls of Exeter's magnificent Cathedral. First found at the Cathedral as far back as 1890, the large tube-web spider or Segestria florentina, is the largest European spider from the Segestriidae family and one of the largest spiders found in the UK. Believed to be native to the Mediterranean region, the species was introduced on ships and first recorded in the UK in the mid-19th Century.
Chris Sperring and Peter Smithers, Professor at the School of Biological Sciences at Plymouth University, go on a quest (with a surprising array of props) to find the species concealed amongst the Cathedral's gothic architecture.
Members of the Segestriidae family have six eyes rather than eight and their front six legs point forward in contrast to many arachnids which have only the front four legs pointing forward. They spin tubular webs in cracks of walls and hunt using a series of trip wires which when triggered causes the spider to spring out of the hole using its back two legs and bite their prey with their large green jaws.
Presented by Chris Sperring
Produced by Jim Farthing.
Peter Smithers is an entomologist at Plymouth University where he has studied spiders for the last 30 years. He was part of the team that produced the Atlas of British Spiders, a fifteen year project that gathered data on the distribution of the UK spider fauna producing maps for every species. He has also spent many years studying spiders in British caves and the biology of trapdoor spiders in Malaysia. Working with his colleague Paul Ramsay (also at Plymouth) he is currently looking at the biology of wall dwelling spiders in the South West.
He is the chairman of the Peninsular Invertebrate Forum and edits the magazine ‘Antenna’ for the Royal Entomological Society.