Measuring about 3 inches (8 centimeters), this arachnid is a behemoth of a funnel web spider – a larger, creepier version of one of Australia’s most deadly creatures.
“Megaspider” recently arrived in an unmarked plastic container, astonishing researchers at the Australian Reptile Park’s antivenom program, about an hour's drive north of Sydney. People who find funnel web spiders are urged to turn them in to the reptile park, which milks their venom and sends it to Seqirus, a business of CSL. Known for its flu vaccines, Seqirus is also the world’s only manufacturer of antivenoms specific to Australian threats like the funnel web spider.
"Having MEGASPIDER handed into the venom program is so amazing, in my 30+ years at the Park, I have never seen a funnel web spider this big!" Australian Reptile Park Education Officer Michael Tate said in an NPR report.
If bitten, it’s a medical emergency requiring fast care at a hospital. Large spiders like this one can be milked for a great volume of venom, which is needed to manufacture antivenom, so the spider’s capture means more lives potentially saved, Tate said.
According to the Australian Museum, funnel web spiders normally range in length from less than an inch to 2 inches (1-5 centimeters), making this one quite the anomaly. Funnel web spiders have a black or dark brown body, a glossy, sparsely-haired protective shell called a carapace and four large “finger-like” spinnerets used to spin webs.
Funnel web spider bites can be deadly. Medical experts recommend applying a pressure bandage around the affected limb and getting fast treatment at the nearest hospital. If possible, safely collect the spider in a jar or container so it can be identified, according to Australian health authorities. Better yet, avoid bites by checking your shoes, clearing rubbish from the garden and wearing shoes, pants and long sleeves when working outdoors, the health service recommends.