Can you imagine walking through a serene, lush national park on a hike and finding a five centimetre long funnel web spider hanging out above your face? On a search through the Booderee National Park on the south coast of New South Wales, that's (probably) what happened to a bunch of scientists from ANU. This particularly massive and particularly venomous funnel web lives in a tree rather than on the ground, and it might be a new species.
According to the SMH, at Jervis Bay on the NSW south coast, scientists discovered the unnaturally large example of the Hadronyche genus living inside a rotted log in Booderee. Her silk-spun nest was up to two metres long, significantly larger than the burrows that most ground-dwelling Atrax robustus — the Sydney funnel web that we all know and hate. Dr Thomas Wallenius, one of the scientists from the Australian National University that found the new example, said that the spider was both a "beautiful specimen" and "quite dangerous".
The estimated age of this recently discovered spider is between 25 and 30 years old, according to ANU scientists, making it one of the longer-lived examples on record. It's likely that long lifespan contributes to its large size, but the new funnel web female is also notable for the fact that it lives in natural burrows in tree space rather than underground burrows. Hopefully this new discovery will contribute to further research on funnel web spider antivenene, which was first researched in the early 1980s but has only been developed for common species.
Funnel web spiders have killed upwards of a dozen people in Australia in recorded history — one of the first deaths was near Jervis Bay — and that's just the piddling 15-35mm variety. This 50mm giant is (likely) every bit as venomous, and we all know that giant spiders are the worst thing in the world. There's no telling how many unwitting bushwalkers' bodies this monster has already piled up in the quiet bushland of Jervis Bay. Only time will tell. [SMH]