Sydney funnel-web spiders: behavior, mating system and population structure of the world’s deadliest spider

Project: Other

Description

Australia contains some of the most fascinating, but also deadliest species in the planet. The Sydney funnel-web spider (Atrax robustus) holds the Guinness World Record for the most venomous spider, quickly killing humans if the anti-venom is not available. Up to 40 people are bitten yearly, and production of the invaluable anti-venom hinges on regularly capturing mature males. A. robustus venom is well studied but almost nothing is known about the biology or population structure of this species. Its taxonomy is also shaky, meaning that the deadliest spider may in fact be a complex of species. We propose to investigate the behavior and genetic structure of A. robustus using tracking technology and detailed genetic analyses. Outcomes will include an improved understanding of how and when this species comes into contact with humans, how far it can disperse, and where significant populations are, helping conserve this iconic species whose habitats are threatened by Sydney's urban sprawl. We will also answer important taxonomic questions, specifically if A. robustus is actually a complex of several species — each with their own venom and habitat preference. Finally, we will work with National Geographic on a campaign that informs and educates arachnophobes and arachnophiles alike.
Short titleFunnel-web biology
AcronymFWB
StatusActive
Effective start/end date1/10/1931/10/20