What are the features of funnel-web spiders? The largest male specimen of the world’s most poisonous atracidae found in Australia

Deeksha
What are the features of funnel-web spiders? (Image via snip from X/@gibo_duke_)
What are the features of funnel-web spiders? (Image via snip from X/@gibo_duke_)

The Australian Reptile Park has welcomed the largest male Sydney funnel-web spider, "Hercules," to their antivenom program. With fangs capable of piercing a human fingernail, this formidable arachnid was discovered on the Central Coast, 50 miles north of Sydney, by a member of the public.

Initially handed over to a local hospital, the spider was later retrieved by experts from the Australian Reptile Park, who identified it as the largest male specimen ever received from the public in Australia. Typically ranging from one to five centimeters, this funnel-web spider measured an astonishing 7.9 centimeters, surpassing the previous record-holder, "Colossus," from 2018.

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The Australian Reptile Park, renowned for its venomous creature research, is excited about the potential contributions of Hercules to their antivenom program. The spider will undergo "milking," a process to extract venom, which is crucial for the production of life-saving antivenom.

Emma Teni, an arachnid keeper at the park, expressed her enthusiasm, saying,

"While female funnel-web spiders are venomous, males have proven to be more lethal. With having a male funnel-web this size in our collection, his venom output could be enormous, proving incredibly valuable for the park’s venom program."

Since the inception of the antivenom program in 1981, there has not been a single fatality in Australia from a funnel-web arachnid bite.


Funnel web-spider is known for its aggressive behavior

Funnel-web arachnids, like the Sydney funnel-web spider, are easily recognized by their shiny, dark brown to black appearance and finger-like spinnerets at the end of their abdomen. The male arachnids of this species have a large mating spur on their second pair of legs. Known for their aggressive behavior when threatened, they rear up and display impressive fangs.

Females are generally larger but less venomous than their male counterparts. They are commonly found in forested areas and suburban gardens, especially in the eastern regions of Australia.

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These arachnids are skilled hunters, relying on their burrowing habits to catch prey. They create silk trip-lines around the entrance of their burrows, allowing them to sense and capture insects like beetles, cockroaches, and small lizards.

Despite their fearsome reputation, they contribute to the ecosystem by controlling the population of pests. While their venom can be dangerous to humans, proper understanding, first aid measures, and antivenom programs have significantly reduced the risk of fatalities from bites.


What makes these arachnids thrive in Australia?

The rainy and humid weather along Australia's east coast has created ideal conditions for funnel-web arachnids to thrive. The Sydney funnel-web arachnids are predominantly found in forested areas and suburban gardens spanning from Sydney, Australia's most populous city, to the coastal city of Newcastle in the north and the Blue Mountains to the west.

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Despite their fearsome reputation, Sydney funnel-web arachnids play a vital role in the ecosystem by controlling the population of various insects. Their unique burrowing habits and nocturnal hunting techniques make them intriguing subjects for scientific study.

While their bites are dangerous, the implementation of proper first aid techniques, such as the pressure bandage/immobilization method, and the availability of antivenom have ensured that fatalities are rare.

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