SPECIES: Zephyrarchaea austini — Kangaroo Island Assassin Spider

CLASSIFICATION: Critically endangered

The assassin spiders are an ancient family of spiders that are 40 million years old. Imagine that! Strange looking, that's for sure, and distinct from other spiders with spear-like jaws and an elevated head. Named assassin for the particular way they hunt other spiders, at just 2-3mm(!!) the Kangaroo Island Assassin Spider was thought to be decimated in the bushfires of 2019/2020. The species is endemic to the north-west of the Island, and remarkably, post-fires, individual spiders were discovered outside their known habitat. The species plays a cruical role as a regulator of spiders within the food web. With such a small, fragile population remaining, this in itself poses a significant risk to the survival of the species, in addition to low genetic diversity, loss of habitat and fire.

Photo: Jess Marsh

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