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Venomous Spiders: New Species of Funnel-Web Spider Sighted in Australia

Sep 11, 2015 05:55 PM EDT
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An unexpected species of funnel-web spiders was recently found in Australia in the Booderee National Park, on New South Wales' south coast. This suggests that there is much more to learn about the ecosystems within the park, researchers say.

"It's remarkable that we have found this other species in Booderee National Park," Dr. Thomas Wallenius, from the Australian National University (ANU), said in a news release.

The spider they found was a 50-millimeter long female, believed to be from the tree-dwelling species Hadronyche, versus the ground-dwelling Atrax species. The Sydney funnel-web spider from the Atrax species was previously the only reported in the park, which is near Jervis Bay.

"It may even turn out to be a new species of funnel-web," Dr. Wallenius, a biologist in ANU Research School of Biology, said in a statement.

An antivenom for the spiders' bites was developed in 1981, after a scientist was spurred to action by the death of a young girl near that country's Jervis Bay. Since then there have been no recorded deaths from funnel-web spider bites.

"The Jervis Bay region has a wide variety of both plant and animal species, as northerly and southerly ocean currents meet, which makes it a rich area to study," Wallenius explained. He noted that this study is part of a much larger biodiversity study of the area.

When the scientists recently found this species of funnel-web spider it was burrowed in a rotten log.

"They build a silk-lined burrow inside the hollow log which can be up to two meters long. She had probably been living in there for 25 to 30 years," Wallenius said in the release. "The males are more likely to be encountered in the summer months, and may be more aggressive, but contrary to common belief funnel-webs can't jump."

The researchers noted that other spiders are often mistaken for funnel-web spiders, so people should not panic if they think they have come across one, according to the release. 

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