On Wednesday, 20 September 2017, biologists from the Faculty of Science at Chulalongkorn University held a press conference introducing “The discovery of the world’s new species of primitive trapdoor spiders in Mae Wong National Park”. The conference held in Meeting Room 217, Chemistry 2 Building, Faculty of Science, was led by environmental conservationist and secretary of the Sueb Nakhasathien Foundation, Mr. Panudech Kerdmali.
Dr. Natapot Warit, a professor of biology and academic advisor in the Department of Biology and Mr. Varat Sivayyapram, a graduate biology student at Chulalongkorn University, explained that the discovery of Liphostius maewongensis Sivayyapram is the 97th trapdoor spider species in the world and 33rd discovery found at over 1,000 meters above sea level. The total number of Sivayyapram spiders living in the park are numbered over 100, which is considered as one of the highest amount of spiders living in one area. This demonstrates that Mae Wong National Park is strongly fertile and has a diversified ecosystem while these spiders spend a majority of their lifetime hiding under burrows on cliff sides.
The trapdoor spider is comparable to a living fossil as it shares a strong resemblance to its ancestors which lived nearly 300 million years ago. This species tends to have a long life span of up to 20 years for females as they spend most of their life hidden. When ready to hunt, they create a trapdoor to create a camouflage to ambush their prey. Meanwhile, trapdoor spiders living in Southeast Asia develop a special kind of web with radial vibration and signal lines to aid them as they hunt. Additionally, their venom contains a special type of poison developed from the venom gland located in their fangs to capture insects and small invertebrates their main victims. Still, they are harmless against humans.
Currently, the research team is in the process of studying the DNA contents of these primitive trapdoor spiders to determine the usage of their webs. These studies are important for the future, as spider webs could play a crucial role in global industrial businesses, mainly in textile and garments. This will enable the production of consumable goods such as clothing, chairs and seat cushions, offering a positive outlook for the economy.