Dr Leanda was first-author on a paper called ‘The longest-lived spider: mygalomorphs dig deep, and persevere‘ published as open-access in Pacific Conservation Biology. The paper gained global interest, and shed light on the burrowing trapdoor spider called #16, who lived until she was 43 years old.
The long term study was initiated by Dr Leanda’s beloved mentor Prof Barbara York Main in 1974. Prof Barbara monitored the burrows of the trapdoor spider species Gaius villosus for forty years, using number metal pegs to keep track – with #16 being the sixteenth spider she pegged in her initial survey. She gathered invaluable data on the life history, biology and ecology of this trapdoor spider species during her ground-breaking study. It was not until the last ten years of the study that Dr Leanda happened upon the scene, meeting Prof Barbara during her undergraduate days at University of Western Australia. Prof Barbara immediately fostered Dr Leanda’s enthusiasm in trapdoor spiders by taking her on fieldtrips and loaning out her huge collection of papers and books for Dr Leanda to read. Happily burying herself in the literature and fully digging the fieldwork, Dr Leanda worked closely with the Lady of the Spiders until her official retirement in 2017. Dr Leanda still worships her, having been in-spider-ed from the start, and visits as often as possible. Prof Barbara last visited her long term study site in 2015 and bequeathed the monitoring on to Dr Leanda. With an exceptional career that far outreaches the oldest spider story, Prof Barbara has been honoured with Medal of the Order of Australia in January 2011 for “service to science and conservation as a researcher and educator in the field of arachnology, and to the community of Western Australia” and the Medal of the Royal Society of Western Australia – the first woman to win it since the award began in 1924.
One of the most touching stories about the world’s oldest spider was written by Avi Selk from The Washington Post called ‘The extraordinary life and death of the world’s oldest known spider‘. His story has been credited as one of the best by the Nieman Foundation at Harvard, and was interviewed as a result. Dr Leanda enjoyed speaking with him on the phone, and was extremely impressed by his work.
Please contact Dr Leanda in regards to the world’s oldest recorded spider if you have any questions.