Discovering an antique in your yard is a rare thing, and it’s even rarer that the “antique” proves to be alive. But that’s exactly what happened to a farmer in Chengdu, China. What he thought was an ancient seal turned out to be an incredibly rare spider, one whose discovery has even scientists shocked.
Li Wenhua was digging in the yard of his orange farm when he found a round, engraved-looking disc. He initially thought it was a cultural relic, but changed his mind pretty quickly when it started to move. After showing his neighbors and doing research on the internet, Li realized that the creature was a rare Chinese Hourglass Spider.
The unusual spider dates back to 500 BCE, as it was featured in Er Ya, the oldest surviving Chinese dictionary. Since its rediscovery in 2000, it’s only been found six times. It’s difficult to find these reclusive animals because they’re trapdoor spiders, which prefer to live underground.
There have only been six sightings of Chinese hourglass spiders since they were rediscovered in 2000.
In an interview with Chengdu Business Daily, Zhao Li, the head of the Insect Museum of West China, confirmed exactly how rare and valuable the spider is.
“The spider has very high value in scientific research. It is an extremely rare species in Sichuan,” Zhao said. “I had spent great effort trying to find it, but I didn’t see one.”
According to Zhao, the spiders are more “commonly” found in the caves of Fujian and Zhejiang provinces, which have a warmer climate. The discovery of an hourglass spider in a cooler climate may force scientists to renegotiate what they thought they knew about its biology.
The rare spider also has value outside of its scientific interest. Because the spiders are shy and mild-tempered, and because of their beautiful, unusual appearance, they’re in great demand as a pet.
Hourglass spiders can sell for up to 12,000 RMB (approximately $1840 USD).
When Li found out how valuable the spider is, he decided to keep it with him until he could find a potential buyer.
Here’s hoping that this gorgeous, unusual spider finds a good home!