A very large spider

We had friends and family around yesterday for lunch. At one point a very large spider was spotted on the gate into our garden – it caused a bit on consternation on account of its size – around 20mm long just for the body. I took a few photos – the spider was clearly shedding its skin – the method that invertebrates such as spiders use to grow larger – their exoskeletons are rigid and need to be discarded so that the animal can then inflate itself, grow bigger and then dry out thus forming a new larger rigid exoskeleton.

Segestria florentina1
You can see the old exoskeleton at the top of the picture – the spider is hardening up its new inflated exoskeleton below. It is living in a hole in the gate just above the old exoskeleton.

I have never seen this species before but it is Segestria florentina. Originally this species lived around the Mediterranean but was inadvertently brought to this country in the 1800s on sailing ships – it is limited to the coastal ports of southern England. It is well known from Exeter where it was recorded in 1890 on Exeter Cathedral. It also lives in the old walls along the Quay in the city. We live close to the Exe in Exton – so this ties in with its known distrbution. It is reputed to have a nasty venomous bite! For more information see here and here.

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