Genetic diversity and differentiation were studied in peripheral populations of the recently rediscovered purse-web spider Atypus affinis in Denmark and Sweden using allozyme electrophoresis. Because of the very narrow environmental niche exploited by this species, only a limited number of potential habitats are available. Furthermore, fragmentation has reduced the number and size of potential habitats within the last century. The level of genetic diversity in A. affinis was intermediate compared with other nonsocial spiders, but low compared with invertebrates in general. Significant genetic differentiation was found within distances of only 1–10 km with FST estimates ranging from 0.020 to 0.075. Within distances of 30–60 km FST ranged from 0.081 to 0.312. Hierarchical FST revealed that genetic variability was partitioned at 89.8% within populations, 9.5% among populations within regions and only 0.7% among the four main regions in Denmark and Sweden. Comparing the result of the genetic analysis with the life history of A. affinis, it is concluded that the level of successful dispersal is low, and that the species has not recently reinvaded northern Europe but prevailed undiscovered for several decades. Finally, it is suggested that the genetic scenario found for A. affinis might represent that for a wide range of other arthropods with similar life history characteristics.