Bad Aussie Spiders

This is a very bad bastard.

The Sydney funnel-web spider (Atrax robustus) is a species of venomous mygalomorph spider native to eastern Australia, usually found within a 100 km (62 mi) radius of Sydney. It is a member of a group of spiders known as Australian funnel-web spiders. Its bite is capable of causing serious illness or death in humans if left untreated.

The Sydney funnel-web has a body length ranging from 1 to 5 cm (0.4 to 2 in). Both sexes are glossy and darkly coloured, ranging from blue-black, to black, to shades of brown or dark-plum coloured.

The Sydney funnel-web is medium to large in size, with body length ranging from 1 to 5 cm (0.4 to 2 in). Both sexes are glossy and darkly coloured, ranging from blue-black, to black, to brown or dark-plum coloured. The carapace covering the cephalothorax is almost hairless and appears smooth and glossy. Another characteristic are finger-like spinnerets at the end of their abdomen. The shorter-lived male is smaller than the female, but longer-legged. The average leg length for the spider in general is six to seven centimeters.

Distribution is centred on Sydney, extending north to the Central Coast and south to the Illawarra region, and west to the Blue Mountains in New South Wales.

The spider can be found in moist microhabitats, including under logs and foliage.

Sydney funnel-web spiders are mostly terrestrial spiders, favouring habitats with moist sand and clays.

Sydney funnel-web spider venom contains a compound known as δ-atracotoxin, an ion channel inhibitor, which makes the venom highly toxic for humans and other primates. However, it does not affect the nervous system of other mammals. These spiders typically deliver a full envenomation when they bite, often striking repeatedly, due to their defensiveness and large chitinous cheliceral fangs. There has been no reported case of severe envenoming by female Sydney funnel-web spiders, which is consistent with the finding that the venom of female specimens is less potent than the venom of their male counterparts. In the case of severe envenomation, the time to onset of symptoms is less than one hour, with a study about Sydney funnel-web spider bites finding a median time of 28 minutes. This same study revealed that children are at particular risk of severe Sydney funnel-web spider envenoming, with 42% of all cases of severe envenoming being children.

There is at least one recorded case of a small child dying within 15 minutes of a bite from a funnel-web.

The bite of a Sydney funnel-web is initially very painful, with clear fang marks separated by several millimetres. The size of fangs is responsible for the initial pain. In some cases the spider will remain attached until dislodged by shaking or flicking it off. Physical symptoms can include copious secretion of saliva, muscular twitching and breathing difficulty, disorientation and confusion, leading to unconsciousness.

A Sydney funnel-web bite is regarded as a medical emergency requiring immediate hospital treatment. Current guidelines for antivenom recommend two vials, or four vials if symptoms of envenomation are severe. Patients are assessed every 15 minutes, with further vials recommended if symptoms do not resolve. The most vials used to treat a bite is 12. The patient was a 10-year-old boy who was bitten in February 2017 by a male Sydney funnel-web that was hiding in a shoe.

The antivenom was developed by a team headed by Struan Sutherland at the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories in Melbourne. Since the antivenom became available in 1981, there have been no recorded fatalities from Sydney funnel-web spider bites. In September 2012, it was reported that stocks of antivenom were running low, and members of the public were asked to catch the spiders so that they could be milked for their venom. One dose of antivenom requires around 70 milkings from a Sydney funnel-web spider.

The Australian Reptile Park receives Sydney funnel-web spiders as part of its milking program. In January 2016, they received a male Sydney funnel-web with a 10-centimetre (4 in) leg span. The spider was described by the park as the largest specimen that it had ever seen.

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