National Geographic Daily News
A white spider.

The newfound "albino" trapdoor spider.

Photograph courtesy Volker W. Framenau

Christine Dell'Amore

National Geographic News

Published November 8, 2011

Along came an "albino" spider—and it's shocked scientists in Australia.

"I nearly fell over when I saw its white head," Mark Harvey, senior curator at the Western Australian Museum, said via email.

The newfound trapdoor spider isn't a true albino, since it still has some pigment—its body is brown, like those of other trapdoor spiders. (See pictures of albino animals.)

But the 1.2-inch-wide (3-centimeter-wide) arachnid has been dubbed the albino trapdoor spider until it's formally described as a new species.

A person in a small town in western Australia found the strange-looking spider near his house, captured it in a jar, and sent it to the museum.

"Unfortunately we know nothing about its life history. We presume that they live in burrows for their entire lives—like all trapdoor spiders—and when males mature, they wander in search of females in their burrows," Harvey said.

Spiders That Pop Out for Prey

Trapdoor spiders get their name because they use soil, vegetation, and silk to construct doors to their burrows that are hinged with silk. The arachnids then pop out when they feel the vibrations of passing prey, which include insects, other arthropods, and small invertebrates.

The spiders also mate inside the burrows, where "males of all species probably have to lift the female body up to access her genital opening, which is located on the underside of the abdomen," he said.

(See "Male Spiders Give 'Back Rubs' to Seduce Their Mates.")

The newfound spider is considered rare, Harvey added—it's currently the only known specimen of its kind.

"Spiders are a diverse group of animals that fascinate and terrify many people," though they're crucial in keeping insect populations in check, he said.

"The world would be a poorer place without spiders."

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