Tasmania – Funnel Web Spiders

2014 January 25

After finding a lot of small creatures under the bark of one log, I went checking a bunch of other dead logs, and found another silk tunnel with something inside of it. It looked similar to the silk tubes made by the dead-wood borer moth caterpillars from last time, except fatter.

But then, I pulled away some more webbing, and exposed – a spider rump! Pretty good sized, too.

I wanted to get some better pictures without interference from the grass, and it was pretty lethargic from the low temperature (it was about 50 degrees F at the time), so I got it onto my hand for some face and full-body shots.

So there I was, taking pictures of this big spider on my hand . . . and my sense of self-preservation kind of drowsily wakes up . . . looks around . . . and suddenly sits bolt upright and screams, “What do you think you’re doing? This isn’t Michigan! This is Australia![1] Put that thing down!

So, I gently shooed it off my hand into the grass. See? No bites!

So, anyway, on consideration of the pictures, it appears to be one of the Australian Funnel Web spiders in the subfamily Atracinae, although not the dangerous[2] Sydney Funnel Web spider (which is bigger, and blacker, and not found in Tasmania).[3]

The Australian funnel webs are not at all the same as the American funnel-web-weavers. The Australian spiders are more closely related to tarantulas, as you can see by their faces with the big chelicerae and the eyes all clustered together in a group on top of the head.

Australian funnel weaver face:

Tarantula face:

Anyway, I was probably never in any real danger from holding one of these spiders in my hand, as it most likely wasn’t one of the couple of “medically significant” species of Australian funnel-webs. But in Australia, you never know. And a bit more caution is warranted than is necessary in Michigan.

Speaking of caution, I did decide against following up on this next one:

These holes were all over the place in the blueberry patch and the wet, boggy area around it. I’m told that these are the burrows of yabbies, which are a variety of freshwater crayfish. The holes were big enough that I could have put my thumb down one pretty easily.

Having said that, I did not, in fact, stick my thumb into one, or try to dig it up. Why not? Well, I’m also told that, in the winter, Tiger snakes and Lowland Copperheads like to occupy yabby burrows. Granted, hardly anybody gets killed by poisonous snake bites any more, but “hardly anybody” is not the same as “nobody”, and why go looking for trouble?

[1] Come to Australia, where you might accidentally get killed!

[2] While the Sydney Funnel Web bite is medically quite dangerous, there is an antivenom available, and nobody has been recorded to have died from their bites since the antivenom was introduced in 1981. See? Nothing to worry about!

[3] Under another piece of bark, I found what I at first thought were a couple more of the same species of spider, slightly thinner and with with redder legs.

One of them even had enlarged pedipalps, so I thought maybe they looked a bit different than the first one because they were males.

But now that I look more closely, I see that their chelicerae (the mouthparts) are not anywhere near as pronounced, the carapace is a different shape, and the eyes look more spread-out. All in all, I now suspect that this is just a chance coloration resemblance, and they aren’t actually very closely related to the funnel-web spider at all! Which means I don’t know what they are.

5 Responses
  1. Dee permalink
    January 8, 2016

    this was absolutely beautiful to read! Thanks for all your hard work and for sharing 😀

  2. September 17, 2016

    Hello Tim,
    I came across your images of the Tasmanian mygalomorph, which you called a Tasmanian Funnel-web spider. I believe that this is a Nemesiidae Stanwellia pexa, more correctly called a trapdoor spider (even though there is no trapdoor).
    I have been trying to get some images of this spider for some time to put on my website of Tasmanian spiders. I was wondering if you would give me permission to use your images of the spider to add to my site, with due acknowledgement of you as the photographer. Also can you please tell me where the photos of the spiders were taken, as many of this group are fairly localised in their habitat.
    I hope you feel able to allow the use of your images as I am attempting to build a comprehensive album of Tasmanian spiders for the public to use in identifying the spiders that they find.
    I found it very interesting that someone from Michigan has a whole section on Tasmania on his blog. When were you here?
    Best regards,
    John Douglas

  3. September 19, 2016

    Thank you for your comments on this spider. You are welcome to use the pictures, it sounds like your site is exactly the sort of thing I was looking for when I was trying to identify this spider.

    The photo was taken in a small pine plantation in the Montagu River valley, West Montagu, in the northwest part of Tasmania. The exact location according to Google Maps was -40.785413, 144.908242. I was there because back in the early 1980s, my parents emigrated to Tasmania while I was off at college. And so, I spent a couple of weeks visiting them in June of 2013, which is when I took the pictures on their farm.

  4. September 22, 2016

    Thanks very much Tim. I am trying to get a proper ID on this spider, when I do I will send it through to you. This group of spiders are fairly regional in their habitat and there are a number that I don’t know the name of at this time.

  5. December 26, 2018

    your awsome

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