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The Two Most Lethal Spiders. (And one that may be worse!!).
So far, the most lethal we know.Click thumbnail to view full-size
How many more lethal creatures lie undiscovered?
Since I have been producing articles on hubpages, I have spent a long time in the world of the Arachnids, I have found them to be fascinating. This, from the heavyweights: tarantulas, funnel-webs and large scorpions, to the common house and garden spiders of the British neighbourhoods.
To be truthful, I thought my work was done as I had covered them fairly well, until I heard of an entry in the 2009 Guinness Book of Records describing the Brazilian Wandering Spider as having the most lethal toxic venom.
As far as the two most dangerous spiders are concerned, this is a bit like the old "Which is the more dangerous, the lion or the tiger?" As far as frail man is concerned, both are extremely deadly and possess a surfeit of power needed to dispatch a "hairless monkey" with one nip or swipe from a paw.
There is no doubt the Brazilian wanderer has gained a reputation for having a nasty temper, with the most deadly poison of the spiders, but it doesn't have the fang-power of the spider I consider to be possibly more dangerous and lethal under certain circumstances: the Sydney Funnel Web Spider, also with some of the most lethal venom of the whole animal world. Further, the Funnel Web has horrendous fangs like daggers which can easily puncture a light shoe, your finger or toe nails.
The Brazilian Wandering Spider has another characteristic minimising the danger of his bite. There is a very good chance of a "dry bite," (no venom injected) or a partially restrained bite, where just a little - up to a third - of the creature's venom is injected. Many snakes do this, which is why a snake-bite under relatively unthreatening conditions often results in a minimal envenination. Note: the operative clause is "some snakes;" and "some situations."
The above detail is why you often see deaths among young children with the bite of the wanderer: (and, indeed, most venomous creatures); it is easier to penetrate their tender skin; they are often partially dressed and they have a much smaller metabolism to withstand the toxic effect. Another factor is the lack of available anti-venin and available medical personnel in the tropical areas of the Americas.
Before this, nearly 30 people died that we know about from the bite of the Sydney arachnid, and more were made ill and suffered long term effects. (Many spider bites may have been blamed on snakes if the attack occurred in heavy country).
Of the male and female Funnel-Web, the female is much the larger and generally polishes-off her mate after they have...mated. He is half her size and weight (but more athletic with longer legs), but his venom is 6 to 8 times stronger than hers (now disputed) and most fatalities have come from attacks by the faster and more belligerent male spider which doesn't hold back his venom. If he decides he doesn't like you (more often than not after you have annoyed him) he often grabs on to a part of you and bites time and time again with his razor-sharp fangs! The Funnel Web often wants to do you damage, no messing! (see pic. of his biting apparatus).
Many say, "Yes, OK, but the Sydney spider lives in his funnel - or tunnel- and he won't bother you from in there unless you really poke about and provoke him." This is not always true and that's probably the less pugnacious and dangerous female in there. The danger time with the aggressive male is when he is on walk-about (Ozzie speak) and looking for a mate, usually between April and June - the mating season.. He has other things on the mind than wasting time with you and he will make that painfully obvious.
The Funnel Web has the evocative scientific name of Atrax Robustus. His name is for the virulent toxin, Atratoxin, which is especially lethal for primates and man, of course. His venom may not be quite as lethal, drop-by-drop, as that of the wandering spider, but the Australian arachnid will be more likely to sustain an attack and inject far more toxin. (Why some vipers like the Gaboon and large Rattlers are so deadly; their huge fangs and copious amounts of venom).
The male funnel web spider is attracted to water during the summer mating season and often falls into swimming pools where he appears dead until picked up, where he promptly springs to life and gratefully bites his rescuer!
Before 1980 this spider was much more feared: an antivenin concocted in that year has prevented further death, after the spider's venom killed a small child in less than 15 minutes!
The wandering spider, also called the "Armed Spider," is found in many parts of Central and South America, from Costa Rica, all the way to Argentina. He is a large creature, from 4 to 5 inches leg span at maturity (against the thick-bodied and more powerful funnel web's 1 to 3 inches). He hunts at night and is concealed during the day in termite mounds or even banana plants. (which is why some have been shipped all over the world, biting surprised dock workers, and even more alarmed shopping housewives in supermarkets!... from time-to-time!).
One of the more interesting aspects of the American spider's bite is that it often causes Priapism in men. This causes a painful erection, lasting for hours, and often ending with impotence. ("Cumere, darlin,' let's have a good one for the road!"). Its venom is currently being studied for use in erectile dysfunction...I am unsuccessfully restraining myself from chuckling over this. (If the Chinese find out about it, they will denude the Americas of the creature: might give the rhinoceros horn and tiger's bones a rest!
Heck, there will then be 10 billion of them in a couple of years...all making rubbish for export in sweat shops!)
The wanderer will assume an erect defence/attack position with its striped abdomen exposed (time to retreat). It also sways from side to side like a cobra. (It also might bite without doing any of these things if surprised). The funnel web also rears in warning.
You really don’t want to get bitten by either of these arachnids; they can both move fast, especially the wanderer, so move away smartly and diffuse the situation.
From stage right...one that’s worse!!
Just to make your nightmares even more vivid, there is one spider, the "Six-Eyed Sand Spider," that may have a venom far more toxic than even our two protagonists today. This shy creature lives on and under the desert sands of North Africa. Known locally as the Sicarius Hahni, this arachnid possesses a Cryotoxin that will, indeed, make you cry. It is said to be even more deadly than that of the Golden Dart Frog (see my hub), previously thought to have the most deadly toxin on the planet.
There is no antivenin for this neurotoxin; any creature it has bitten has died within minutes. The two reports of it biting humans ended with one death and another having his arm amputated to prevent him dying. The effect is similar to that of the Brown Recluse, except far more so. This ambush predator is luckily timid and not aggressive; you would be unlucky - very - to be bitten, and would be also very lucky to survive.
There are a couple of thousand spiders we know about, and many more out there waiting to be discovered. ALL arachnids carry venom of one sort or another. FEW can bother large mammals like man. But all spiders should be treated with respect and left alone to get on with their lives. They generally repay the courtesy.