This tiny arachnid has a pretty big bite.
The discovery of a cicurina venii — or the Braken Bat Cave meshweaver spider, as it is commonly known — in late August has caused a $15 million highway construction project in northwestern San Antonio to grind to a halt.
The reason? Nobody has seen a Braken Bat Cave meshweaver in more than three decades.
The dime-sized spider has been on the endangered species list since 2000, and when biologist Jean Krejca, who was consulting on the construction project, spotted it following a rain shower, building was halted so that scientists could explore the area.
The eyeless spider is known as a meshweaver for the kind of unevenly shaped web it weaves. It was originally discovered in 1980 in the cave it was named after, just five miles from where it was found again in August. The original cave has since been filled in and covered by a residential development. The elusive spider has not been seen since.
However while the discovery is being hailed as something akin to “stumbling on a new Galapagos Island in terms of the biological significance in the region” — as Jean Krejca, the biologist who found the spider, put it — it’s also a headache for local commuters. Nearly 80,000 drivers pass through the area daily.
(MORE: Becoming an Endangered Species)
The highway project, which began in April, is now on hold indefinitely as the Texas Department of Transportation decides on the best course of action.
Meanwhile, scientists are rejoicing in the possible further discoveries to be found in the area. Biologists were present from the start of the construction because the area is known for its abundance of songbirds and rare cave animals, including the spiders. Nineteen other cave features, resembling the holes similar to the one the spider was found in, have been identified during the course of construction.
(TIME Magazine: Science: The Clever Arachnids)
There is a possiblity that the construction on the highway, at Texas 151 and Loop 1604, may be scrapped altogether if the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services deem that it would disturb the creature’s habitat.
Unfortunately, while one Braken Bat Cave meshweaver may turn out to be the savior of many other rare animals in the area, it faced a swift demise as it had to be dissected by a taxonomist for verification purposes.