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Thursday, December 13, 2007


Australasian funnel-web spiders are venomous spiders of the family Hexathelidae. These spiders are found in two genera of the family: Hadronyche (which is not associated with any known human fatalities) and Atrax (which probably have killed 13 people). They are notorious for the inclusion of the Sydney funnel-web spider (Atrax robustus), native to eastern Australia. There are other genera in family Hexathelidae, but these do not have the notorious reputation of the Australasian funnel-webs.

These spiders are medium-to-large in size, with body lengths ranging from 1 cm to 5 cm (0.4" to 2"). They are darkly coloured, ranging from black to brown, with a glossy carapace covering the front part of the body. Some of these spiders greatly resemble tarantulas. Like the related diplurid spiders, the hexathelids generally have long spinnerets; this is especially true of A. robustus.

Like other Mygalomorphae, (also called the Orthognatha an infraorder of spiders that includes the true tarantulas), these spiders have fangs which point straight down and do not cross each other. They have ample venom glands that lie entirely within their chelicerae. Their chelicerae and fangs are large and powerful. Although they are rather small compared to the true tarantulas, they should not be handled without taking substantial precautions, because their fangs have been known to penetrate fingernails and soft shoes, resulting in dangerous bites.
Funnel-webs are probably one of the three most dangerous spiders in the world and are regarded by some to be the most dangerous.

There have been 26 recorded deaths in Australia in the last 100 years from spider bites. Bites from funnel web spiders have caused 13 deaths (seven in children). In all cases where the sex of the biting spider could be determined, it was found to be the male of the species. Most victims were young, ill or infirm.

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