If you plan to visit the amazing city of Sydney, New South Wales, in the eastern part of Australia, then you need to be wary of a particular type of 8-legged creature.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at some of the most interesting facts about the Sydney funnel-web spider, a type of spider you better not come across any time soon.
1. This type of spider can only be found in the vicinity of Sydney
As the name of this particular spider implies, the Sydney funnel-web-sider can be found in and around the most populous city in Australia, Sydney. You can find these spiders within a radius of about 100 kilometers (62 miles) of the city.
Their natural habitat is bounded by the Central Coast in the north and the Illawarra region in the south. They can also be found all the way up to the Blue Mountains west of Sydney.
You will find these creatures roaming around on the ground as they are terrestrial for the most part. They also prefer areas featuring moist sand or clay and often hide under foliage.
2. How big is the Sydney funnel-web spiders?
The size of these spiders can vary quite a bit as they can have a body length of anywhere between 1 and 5 centimeters (0.4 and 2 inches).
The body of the male spiders are usually a bit smaller than that of the females, but they compensate for this by having longer legs. The average length of the legs is between 6 and 7 centimeters (2.36 to 2.75 inches).
These medium-sized spiders are easily recognized by their brown to pitch-black appearance and almost glossy body texture.
Their carapace is pretty much hairless as well, something that further enhances the shiny effect of their bodies.
3. It’s part of the Australian funnel-web spider family
This particular type of spider was first described in 1877 by Octavius Pickard-Cambridge based on a female spider that had been examined at the British Museum in London.
The spider was given the name “Atrax robustus,” a reference to the strong appearance of the Sydney funnel-web-spider (robustus means “strong/sturdy” in Latin), especially the posture when it feels threatened.
There are only 3 species listed in the genus Atrax which is part of the family “Atracidae.” This family is commonly known as the “Australian funnel-web spiders” which feature a total of 35 species.
All of the members of this family are native to Australia and are part of the infraorder “Mygalomorphae.” This refers to the Greek word “mygalē,” which means “shrew” (a small mammal that looks like a mouse), and “morphē,” which means “form” or “shape.”
4. Their name refers to the way they build their shelter
As the name of this type of spider implies, they build their shelters in a particular way. Their silk-lined nest features an entrance that features an open funnel or even a tunnel and sometimes even has two openings.
These nests can only be found in moist environments, often under rocks, logs, or against the barks of a tree. They mostly spend the time during the day hiding here.
One of the most remarkable facts about these shelters is that it features trip lines which are built to trap unsuspecting victims.
The creatures that end up being trapped are subdued by the spider that rushes out of its nest. It’s then injected with venom before being dragged into it. Not exactly a way these creatures, including insects, lizards, or frogs, want to go, that’s for sure!
They tend to come out at night as well when the temperatures drop which avoids dehydration.
5. It’s one of two spiders in this family that can inflict lethal bites
The venom of the Sydney funnel-webs spider is very strong and can potentially cause deaths in case it’s left untreated. Luckily, there’s an antivenom available and no lethal bites have occurred ever since.
The bite of this particular type of sider is initially extremely painful and it can be recognized by the clearly visible fang marks. The injected venom subsequently causes nausea followed by muscular twitching and eventually unconsciousness.
The venom of this spider is extremely dangerous and it has even been declared as the “world’s most venomous spider” by Guinness World Records. The venom of the Brazilian wandering spider comes close to the level of toxicity as well.
What’s remarkable is that the Sydney funnel-web spider is only 2 out of the 35 spiders in the Australian funnel-web-spider family that can inflict fatal bites. The other one is the “northern tree-dwelling funnel-web.”
More interesting facts about the Sydney funnel-web spider
6. There are only 3 species of spiders in the genus “Atrax,” even though more were classified as such before. This genus was initially placed among the curtain web spiders followed by the family “Hexathelidae” in 1980.
The Atrax has only been moved to the Australian funnel-web spider family in 2018. The 3 species in this genus are A. robustus, A. sutherlandi, and A. yorkmainorum.
7. One of the most distinctive characteristics of this particular type of spider is that they possess spinnerets that look like fingers.
These silk-producing organs are located at the end of their abdomen and are used to build their fascinating shelters.
8. The female spiders live much longer than the males and have a life span of up to 20 years. They are rarely seen as they spend most of their time inside their retreat, only coming out when prey is trapped at their front door.
The males only wander around to find potential females to mate with, something that happens during the warmer months of the year. This is the time you can find them roaming around.
9. These spiders display a particular posture when they feel threatened. This aggressive behavior consists of raising themselves on their rear legs and actively displaying their sharp fangs.
It’s best to avoid these creatures when they are positioned this way. If they get a chance to bite, they don’t easily let go as well and often bite multiple times, injecting as much venom as possible.
10. The antivenom to threat bites of this dangerous creature has been available since 1981. Every bite is considered to be a medical emergency and needs to be treated with this antivenom at the hospital.
The stock of this antivenom once ran quite low in 2012 and people were asked to catch these spiders so their venom could be milked to produce the medicine.
The Australian Reptile Park continues to actively look for these spiders as part of their milking program and recommends using a jar with air holes to keep them in.