A floodplain near the small town of Maningrada, in Australia’s Northern Territory, has been found to contain a ‘megacluster’ of 25,000 venomous tarantulas, researchers reported.
The diving tarantula gets its name from its ability to takes air bubbles and survive underwater. Typically they live in groups of 200 or 300 individuals. But the newly discovered group contains roughly 100 times that amount in a 10-km area.
Although all tarantulas are venomous, with some bites causing serious discomfort that can persist for several days, so far there is no record of a bite causing a human fatality. Hopefully the town of Maningrada will not be the location of a world’s first in this regard.
Maningrada lies 482 km (300 miles) to the east of Darwin, the closest city.
A senior curator at the Queensland Museum, Dr Robert Raven, is hopeful that the venom of the spiders, strong enough to induce vomiting in humans, could be used for medical research purposes.
He noted, speaking to the Sydney Morning Herald, that “pharmaceutical applications could apply across a broad spectrum.”
The tarantula species, only discovered in 2006, is so new it does not yet have a scientific name.
In an interview with James Oaten, Raven told ABC News:
“Because there are so many, it’s not like we’re hunting or picking for a [particular] animal. They’re all around us.”
“The entire intellectual property concerning the spider – its young, its adults, and its venom – are all property of the community,” he commented. “This is a resource for the community in a number of ways… and this could flow back into the community eventually to help them manage the parks better.”
THere is so far not much known about the diving tarantula species. It is established that it can swim, while coating itself in air bubbles for breathing underwater and to go into its burrow during the rainy season.
“It seems the spider is very comfortable underwater,” Dr Raven said.
“The Aboriginal boys have done some checks, and they put a root into the water and the spider very happily runs down into the water and sits on the root covered in a beautiful coat of air bubbles.”
Illustration: “Wiki tarantula” by Arno / Coen – www.nutscode.com. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons