Overview

Distribution

Found only in Australia within a 160-kilometer radius of Sydney. There are other species of funnel-web spiders in Eastern Australia, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania.

(Atknison, 1981; Brown, 1999)

Biogeographic Regions: australian (Native )

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Physical Description

Morphology

Sydney funnel-web spiders have large fangs and venom sacs. Males grow to 25mm long while females grow to 35 mm long. The color is a glossy blue-black and there are fine, velvety hairs covering the abdomen. Funnel-web spiders have shiny, solidly built limbs, a row of teeth along the fang groove and another row on their paired claws. Males are smaller, slimmer, and have longer legs.

(Brown, 1999; Hunter, 1982)

Other Physical Features: ectothermic ; bilateral symmetry

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Ecology

Habitat

Sydney funnel-web spiders tend to live in lush gullies beneath rocks and fallen timber. They also live in moist soil beneath houses, crevices in garden rockeries and compost heaps. Their white silk webs are 20 to 60 cm long and go into ground that has stable, high humidity and low temperatures. The entrance is either y-shaped or t-shaped and is woven into a funnel, hence the name funnel-web spider.

(Mascord, 1980)

Terrestrial Biomes: forest

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Trophic Strategy

The diet of Sydney funnel-web spiders consists of beetles, cockroaches, insect larvae, native land snails, millipedes and occasionally frogs and other small vertebrates. All food is taken at the edge of their 'funnel-webs.' The webs are made entirely of dry silk. Insects often times land on the web; once they land, the trapped insects have trouble moving on the slippery web. Sydney funnel-web spiders have no trouble moving and repeatedly bite the trapped insect and takes it back into the funnel for feeding.

(Brunet, 1997)

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Life History and Behavior

Reproduction

Male reproductive organs consists of testes and a tube that connects the testes to a small opening. Sperm is discharged onto a small silk mat that the spiders weave. Sperm is then discharged into the female's genital opening where it is either used or stored by the female. Reproduction usually occurs towards the end of summer or early fall. Males reach sexual maturity at about four years of age and the females take just a little bit longer. Females lay from 90 to 120 yellow-green eggs.

(Brown, 1999; Brunet, 1997)

Key Reproductive Features: gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)

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Conservation

Conservation Status

The Australian Reptile Park has over 1000 funnel-web spiders where the venom is being extracted and tested to find a cure.

(Overton, 1998)

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Sydney funnel-web spiders are very aggressive and will attack. They are known to have killed at least 15 people. A bite from this spider will not be fatal if treated immediately.

(Overton, 1998)

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Silk made by Sydney funnel-web spiders is used as crosshairs in optical instruments.

(Overton, 1998)

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Wikipedia

Sydney funnel-web spider

The Sydney funnel-web spider (Atrax robustus) is a species of Australian funnel-web spider usually found within a 100 km (62 mi) radius of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. It is a venomous mygalomorph spider with a bite capable of causing serious injury or death in humans if left untreated.[1]

Taxonomy[edit]

The Reverend Octavius Pickard-Cambridge was the first to describe the Sydney funnel-web spider, from a female specimen in 1877. It still bears its original name of Atrax robustus. Some years later, William Joseph Rainbow described a male Sydney funnel-web as Euctimena tibialis, and female specimen as Poikilomorpha montana, before all were found to be the same species.[2] The species name is derived from the Latin robustus "strong/sturdy/mature".[3]

Atrax robustus is one of three species of the genus Atrax in the family Hexathelidae, the other two being Atrax sutherlandi and Atrax yorkmainorum.[4] The Sydney funnel-web spider shares its name with some members of the genus Hadronyche. However, it remains, together with the northern tree funnel-web, the only Australian funnel-web spider known to have inflicted fatal bites to humans.[5]

Description[edit]

Male Sydney funnel-web spider in a warning posture.

The Sydney funnel-web is medium to large in size, with body length ranging from 1 to 5 cm (0.39 to 1.97 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.[6] The shorter-lived male is smaller than the female but longer legged.[5]

Behaviour[edit]

Sydney funnel-web spiders are mostly terrestrial spiders, favouring habitats with moist sand and clays. They typically build silk-lined tubular burrow retreats with collapsed "tunnels" or open "funnel" entrances from which irregular trip-lines radiate over the ground. In some exceptions, which lack trip-lines but may have trapdoors, the silk entrance tube may be split into two openings, in a Y or T form. Sydney funnel-webs burrow in sheltered habitats where they can find a moist and humid climate, for instance under rocks, logs or borer holes in rough-barked trees.[6][7] The burrow may be in the hollow of a tree trunk or limb, many metres above ground level.[citation needed] The long-lived female funnel-webs spend most of the time in their silk-lined tubular burrow retreats. When potential prey, which includes insects, lizards or frogs, walks across the trip-lines, they rush out, subduing their prey by injecting their venom.[6][7] Males, recognized by the modified terminal segment of the palp, tend to wander during the warmer months of the year, looking for receptive females to mate with.[8] This makes encounters with male specimen more likely as they sometimes wander into backyards or houses, or fall into swimming pools. The spiders can survive such immersion for up to twenty-four hours, trapping air bubbles on hairs around their abdomen.[6] The spiders are mainly active at night, as typical day-time conditions would dehydrate them. During the day, they seek cover in cool, moist hideaways. After heavy rain, spider activity is increased as their burrows may be flooded.[7] When threatened or provoked, funnel-web spiders will display aggressive behaviour, rearing up on their hind legs and displaying their fangs.[7][9] When biting, the funnel-web spiders maintain a tight grip on their victim, often biting repeatedly.[9]

Distribution[edit]

Distribution is primarily south of the Hunter River to the Illawarra region, and west to the Blue Mountains in New South Wales.

Bites to humans[edit]

Venom[edit]

Funnel-web spider venom contains a compound known as 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.[6] 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 funnel-web spiders, which is consistent with the finding that the venom of female specimen is less potent than the venom of their male counterparts.[9][10] In the case of severe envenomation, the time to onset of symptoms is less than one hour; with a study about funnel-web spider bites finding a median time of 28 minutes. This same study revealed that children are at a particular risk of severe funnel-web envenoming, with 42% of all cases of severe envenoming being children.[10] There is at least one recorded case of a small child dying within 15 minutes of a bite from a Sydney funnel-web spider, though that event occurred before the development of an antivenom.[11]

Antivenom[edit]

Main article: Antivenom

The antivenom was developed by a team headed by Struan Sutherland at the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories in Melbourne.[12] Since the antivenom became available in 1981,[13] there have been no recorded fatalities from Sydney funnel-web spider bites.[6][10] 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 spider.[14]

Symptoms[edit]

The bite of a Sydney funnel-web is initially very painful, with clear fang marks separated by several millimetres.[15] The size of fangs is responsible for the initial pain.[16] In some cases the spider will remain attached until dislodged by shaking or flicking it off.[17]

Treatment[edit]

A funnel-web bite is regarded as a medical emergency requiring immediate hospital treatment.[18]

Current guidelines for antivenom recommend two vials, or four vials if symptoms of envenomation are severe. Patients are assessed every fifteen minutes, with further vials recommended if symptoms do not resolve.[19]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Alcock, MD, MS;, Joe. "Funnel Web Spider Envenomation / Pathophysiology". Medscape Reference. Retrieved 3 November 2012. 
  2. ^ Gray, Michael R. (2010). "A revision of the Australian funnel-web spiders (Hexathelidae: Atracinae)". Records of the Australian Museum 62 (3): 285. doi:10.3853/j.0067-1975.62.2010.1556. 
  3. ^ Brunet, Bert (1997). Spiderwatch: A Guide to Australian Spiders. Reed. p. 91. ISBN 0-7301-0486-9. 
  4. ^ Platnick N I World Spider Catalog (2008). In 1988, other species were transferred from Atrax to the genus Hadronyche: A. adelaidensis, A. eyrei, A. flindersi, A. formidabilis, A. infensus, A. modestus, A. pulvinator, A. validus, A. venenatus and A. versutus.
  5. ^ a b "Funnel-web spider", CSIRO, 14.10.2011. Retrieved 18 December 2011.
  6. ^ a b c d e f Funnel-web Spiders, Australian Museum, Sydney. Retrieved 18 December 2011.
  7. ^ a b c d Sydney Funnel-web Spider, Atrax robustus, Australian Museum, Sydney. Retrieved 18 December 2011.
  8. ^ Isbister, Geoffrey K; Gray, Mike R (2004). "Bites by Australian mygalomorph spiders (Araneae, Mygalomorphae), including funnel-web spiders (Atracinae) and mouse spiders (Actinopodidae: Missulena spp)". Toxicon 43 (2): 133–40. doi:10.1016/j.toxicon.2003.11.009. PMID 15019472. 
  9. ^ a b c "Australian Spider and Insect Bites", University of Sydney. Retrieved 18 December 2011.
  10. ^ a b c Isbister, GK; Gray, MR; Balit, CR; Raven, RJ; Stokes, BJ; Porges, K; Tankel, AS; Turner, E; White, J; Fisher, MM (2005). "Funnel-web spider bite: A systematic review of recorded clinical cases". The Medical journal of Australia 182 (8): 407–11. PMID 15850438. 
  11. ^ "Battling illness, Sutherland still works to save lives from stings and bites". ABC. 1999-05-13. Retrieved 23 October 2011. 
  12. ^ "Obituary: Struan Keith SutherlandAO MB BS MD DSc FRACP FRCPA". The Medical Journal of Australia. January 2002. Retrieved 4 September 2012. 
  13. ^ Fisher, MM; Raftos, J; McGuinness, RT; Dicks, IT; Wong, JS; Burgess, KR; Sutherland, SK (1981). "Funnel-web spider (Atrax robustus) antivenom. 2. Early clinical experience". The Medical journal of Australia 2 (10): 525–6. PMID 7321948. 
  14. ^ "Anti-Venom Running Low For Deadliest Spider". Sky News. 2 September 2012. Retrieved 2 September 2012. 
  15. ^ White 2013, p. 190.
  16. ^ Isbister, Geoffrey K; Fan, Hui Wen (2011). "Spider bite". The Lancet 378 (9808): 2039–47. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(10)62230-1. PMID 21762981. 
  17. ^ White 2013, p. 182.
  18. ^ White 2013, p. 185.
  19. ^ White 2013, p. 200.

Cited texts[edit]

  • Sutherland, Struan K.; Tibballs, James (2001) [1983]. Australian Animal Toxins (2nd ed.). South Melbourne, Victoria: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-550643-X. 
  • White, Julian (2013). A Clinician's Guide to Australian Venomous Bites and Stings: Incorporating the Updated Antivenom Handbook. Melbourne, Victoria: CSL Ltd. ISBN 978-0-646-57998-6. 
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