You might think it would be difficult to amass sympathy and support when you're just a tiny spider named "the horrid ground-weaver", but this incredibly rare and threatened arachnid seems to have defied the odds – and thanks to an outpouring of concern for its future survival, its tiny sliver of habitat will be protected from development.

We wrote about the horrid ground-weaver's plight back in January, when nature conservation charity Buglife urged the British public to sign a petition opposing plans for a new housing development at one of just two UK sites where the species (Nothophantes horridusstill survives.

The spiders live out their days in narrow limestone crevices from which they rarely emerge, like the ones found at a site called Radford Quarry in the coastal city of Plymouth, where the housing developed was planned. A type of money spider (Linyphiidae), the species was just recently listed as critically endangered by the IUCN. 

“The horrid ground-weaver is an extremely rare species. It is amazing that one of the world’s rarest spiders is only found in Plymouth – and that is why Radford Quarry is of global significance for wildlife. Failure to protect this site could be catastrophic for this tiny spider,” warned Buglife's Andrew Whitehouse at the time.

Now, thanks in part to a successful petition singed by almost 10,000 people, planning authorities have ruled out development at Radford Quarry, citing concerns about rare species like the horrid ground-weaver. “[This is] a fantastic result for wildlife. Buglife believes that to knowingly cause the extinction of a species, no matter how small, is morally wrong. We welcome the decision ... to protect this site for nature and for the local community," said Whitehouse in an update this week.

With countless species the world over facing threats to their habitats, this might seem like a small victory, but it does show that we can make a difference to critters in crisis when we put our minds to it – even when they have unappealing names and lack the cutesiness of the giant panda.

(And just in case you were wondering, the horrid ground-weaver got its name not for its spiderly frightfulness – it's a decidedly unscary 2.5mm – but from the Latin word for bristly: horridus.)

Top header image: Duncan Allen