Hundreds of international spider scientists on hunt in NZ for unique species

Hundreds of international spider scientists have descended on New Zealand, as the country plays host to the industry's conference for the first time.

But they won't be locked in a boardroom in a talk-fest. The team plans to go hunting for anything with eight legs in the hope of discovering a new species.

The Canterbury Museum freezer is home to some impressive creepy crawlies, for research in the niche market of spider science.

“We're pretty thin on the ground, like in New Zealand there is only a dozen of us at most,” Cor Vink, the curator of natural history at Canterbury Museum said.

Yesterday more than 200 arachnologists from 32 countries kicked off the first day of their week-long congress.

“I study spiders in Sydney and we actually have some really impressive spiders in Sydney. So we have the funnel web which is one of the most dangerous. And we have big golden weave spiders. They build a huge web and they are absolutely gorgeous, but they do have a bad reputation,” arachnologist Lizzie Lowe told 1 NEWS.  

Our famous Avondale spiders, which starred in the film Arachnophobia, are now becoming scarce.

The woman who helped Hollywood collect them says Auckland's housing boom is to blame.

“The habitat basically has gone that they liked to live in. There are still one of two pockets around, but they are definitely in a huge decline,” arachnologist Grace Hall said.

New Zealand is home to more than 2000 species of spiders and pseudo-scorpions, and later this week the experts will head out on a field trip in Canterbury to try and find as many of them as they can.

Sixty per cent of them have names so a lot of them aren’t named and about 95 per cent of them are only found here in New Zealand and nowhere else.

If all of this has made you squirm, here are some reassuring words.

“They can definitely see you. Some of them track you as you walk along, but they are definitely not out to get you I promise,” Ms Lowe said.

Most of the spiders are much more scared of you, than you are of them - most of them.

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The team plans to go hunting for anything with eight legs in the hope of discovering a new species. Source: 1 NEWS