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21 November 2017

A Guide to the SPIDERS of Australia



The front cover image is apparently a "male in the Jumping Spider genus Maratus, the Peacock Spiders, which belong to the most spectacularly coloured spiders in Australia.  Maratus speciosus is known from sand dune habitats in south-west Western Australia."

I borrowed this excellent, comprehensive tome from the library following an unexpected encounter indoors with a large (approximately 10cm in diameter) Huntsman Spider which is in the family Sparassidae at 01:30 in the morning.  Even though I have a great respect and fascination for spiders however, seeing a huge specimen at this time of the morning very near me almost caused me to have an acute myocardial infarction brought on by fear.  It was large, dark and hirsute as one would expect.  My husband urged me to get a glass and a sheet of paper or cardboard and he then put the glass over the spider which was difficult because the Huntsman was so large it almost did not fit inside the glass and slipped the piece of paper between the glass and the wall and was able to carry the Huntsman outside and release it.  

Reading the chapter on the Sparassidae on page 266, I learnt that "Huntsman Spiders are generally large spiders with a more or less flat body and a crab-like ('laterigrade') arrangement of the legs.  In addition to two tarsal claws, they have dense pads of hairs on the ends of their legs, which allow them easily to climb any vertical surface.  They may even be seen scuttling on the ceiling."  The chapter also mentioned that the Huntsman Spiders were active at night and did not need a web to capture their prey instead relying on their ability to run extremely fast and thus chase and capture their prey.  Apparently, "Despite their large size, Huntsman Spiders are not known to inflict a serious bite on humans.  They often show very aggressive behaviour when disturbed and bites are relatively frequent, for example when people pick up logs under which they hide, or if they cause stress to a spider that was hiding in washing on the clothes line.  Effects are local, including puncture marks and minor bleeding, with associated pain which only last for a short time.  Systemic effects are very rare but may include nausea and headache."

Finding out information about the Huntsman has helped me.  This is not to say that I will not jump out of my skin if I have another close encounter with one.  At least it is comforting to know that they are not venomous.


A Guide to the SPIDERS of Australia by VOLKER W. FRAMENAU, BARBARA C. BAEHR and PAUL ZBOROWSKI

ISBN 9781921517242
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