When it comes to spiders that love to hang out in long, dark caves and mines, few are bigger than the “mine spider,” a creature that might make Lord of the Rings’ Shelob jealous. With a legspan approaching 10 centimeters (4 inches) and a body the size of a softball, Meta menardi hunts for slugs and millipedes by skulking along walls in abandoned mines and caves.
They may look like terrifying monsters, but these creatures are not aggressive—they prefer to run away from their prey rather than pounce on it. But while their venom might not be strong enough to take out a human, it could do serious damage to a rat.
Because they are photophobic, mine spiders must find places where light does not penetrate, such as railway tunnels and old mining sites. They burrow into the ground, then emerge at dusk to hunt on foot for their small, rat-sized prey. In his latest study, Marco collected data from more than 400 caves where these spiders live, tracking their reactions to the weather changes in the surrounding area.