Photo: © Ken & Rod Mafham-Preston
Atypus affinis, belongs to Atypidae, subfamily of the Mygalomorphae. A relative to our dear tarantulas. It can be found in the southern part of Sweden, in Denmark and in England south to Algeria and east to Hungary (Bristowe 1958). the spider live in silken tubes that are sealed in both ends and use the tube as shelter and as a tool to capture prey. The main part of the tube are in the ground and approx 5cm are sticking up above the surface. Small insects which are walking on the tube are detected by the spider and it goes up and underneith the insect, stick the fangs through the tube wall and drag the prey inside and down into the tube. The spider returns later and repair the hole.
Danne Rydgren and myself went to Skåne, s. part of Sweden, in search for the swedish mygalomorph a few days in June. We knew that the spider had been found on a area called Kullaberg and after mailing the swedish arachnologist Torbjörn Kronstedt, I got the email address to Lars Jonsson from Lund that told us A. affinis also had been found in two additional localities in Skåne.
The first day in Skåne we spent 3-4 hours searching the scrub in Kulllaberg but still no Atypus so the next day we arrange to meet Lars in Skäralid, another locality. Lars took us to the place where he found Atypus in a steep slope. Well, I´m well trained but Danne suffered after the semi-alpine climb...we reached the area in the slope where they should be and me and Danne dived and tryed to find the tubes. Both had a picture in our heads on how the silken tube would look like but the image was proven wrong.
Lars showed us a couple of abandoned tubes and they sure didnt match our imaginary picture at all. The tubes looked like old roots so now we had the correct image to look for and it didnt take to much time before we started to see the tubes everywhere. Many of the tubes was thin and was probably inhabited by juveniles. Eventually we also found thicker tubes, approx thickness and length like a pointfinger. Danne started to dug the spider out which wasnt the easiest thing to do. The part that are above ground are around 5cm and the main part in the ground 15-20cm. After 10-15 min of digging Danne had the entire tube open but still no visible sign of the spider.
The tube went narrow at the end and suddenly I saw the abdomen of our first Atypus! Gently Danne removed the silken tube and out came a tiny spider around 1cm in bodylength with distinctive mygalomorphic shape! I wanted to dug out one too and the first tube proven to be empty but the second held a mewly molted Atypus in the same size as the first. We also observed some foodremains outside a few tubes and it looked like the remaines from small beetles, probably they feed on anything of the right size. I tried to place a small earthworm on a tube but it didnt work.
Thanks to Lars J. Jonsson who took the time to show us this highly "un-swedish" species! Othervise we had been stuck in the slopes of Kullaberg forever...
Click the image to enlarge it.