Sydney funnel-web spider facts, pictures, video and in-depth information.
The Sydney funnel-web spider is one of the world’s deadliest spiders. It is also a master ambush predator, constructing elaborate traps complete with tripwires. Let’s find out more about this fascinating species …
Sydney Funnel-Web Spider Facts At A Glance
- Scientific name: Atrax robustus
- Type of Animal: Arachnid
- Animal Family: Hexathelidae
- Where Found: South-eastern Australia
- Length: 1 to 5 cm (0.4 to 2 in)
- Conservation Status: Not assessed
Meet The Sydney Funnel-Web Spider: Introduction
The Sydney funnel-web spider is a large ground-dwelling spider. It belongs to the infraorder (an animal grouping) Mygalomorphae, which also includes tarantulas and trapdoor spiders.
The species was first described (i.e. named and recognized as a species) in 1877 by English clergyman and zoologist Rev. Octavius Pickard-Cambridge.
Mygalomorphs share several primitive characteristics, such as downward pointing fangs and simple spinning structures.
The Sydney funnel-web spider’s venom is highly toxic to humans. The species is considered to be one of the world’s deadliest spiders.
However, due to the availability of anti-venom introduced in the 1980’s, there have been no human fatalities caused by the species for almost 40 years.
Watch the video below to see YouTube wildlife expert Coyote Peterson come face to face with a Sydney funnel-web spider:
What Does The Sydney Funnel-Web Spider Look Like?
The Sydney funnel-web spider has a robust body and sturdy limbs. The hard carapace that covers the spider’s cephalothorax (the front section of the body that includes the head) is almost hairless and has a smooth, glossy appearance. The soft abdomen is covered in fine hairs.
The male is typically smaller in size and has a slimmer build than the female. The male’s legs are longer, and the second pair is equipped with large mating spurs which are used to hold onto a female while mating.
Both sexes are dark in colour, ranging from brown and dark-plum to black and blue-black. There is no obvious patterning.
The spider’s eyes are close together, and the spinnerets (the organs that spin silk) at the end of its abdomen are finger-like. The fangs of the funnel-web spider are large, and fold into fang grooves that are lined with teeth.
The Sydney funnel-web spider is only found in the state of New South Wales in south-eastern Australia.
As its name suggests, the spider’s range is centred on Sydney; the species is found within a radius of about 160 km (99 mi) of the city. Its range extends north to Newcastle, south to Nowra and west to the Blue Mountains within a radius of about 160 km (99 mi).
You can see Sydney on the map below:
The Sydney funnel-web spider is found in urban areas and woodland habitats.
In general, the species prefers forested upland areas to more open country at lower elevations. It also favours areas with moist soil and tends to avoid the drier sandy soils of coastal areas.
The ideal microhabitat for the Sydney funnel-web spider is cool, sheltered and shady with high, stable humidity.
The species is often found under rocks, logs and leaf litter. In urban areas it may seek shelter in compost heaps and under houses.
The Burrow Of The Sydney Funnel-Web Spider
The Sydney funnel-web spider creates tubular burrows that are up to 6 cm (2.4 in) long. These are lined with funnel-like webbing. This is characteristic to spiders in the family Hexathelidae.
The white silk webbing framing the entrance to the burrow is often Y or T-shaped, and has 2 openings.
A number of thicker, irregular lines of web are anchored to objects such as roots and rocks near to the entrance of the burrow.
These threads act as trip lines; the spider uses them to detect the movements of prey animals in the vicinity of its burrow.
The Sydney funnel-web spider is a solitary species and is usually active at night. It is known to be aggressive when threatened. It will often bite repeatedly if provoked.
The female funnel-web spider tends to stay in its burrow unless forced to move (e.g. when heavy rain causes the burrow to flood). The male funnel-web is more mobile. It will roam in search of females during the warmer months of the year.
The Sydney funnel-web spider usually mates in the late summer or autumn. The female spider produces pheromones (airborne chemicals) which attract male spiders to her. Mating occurs if the male successfully entices the female out of her burrow.
After mating, the female lays an egg-sac. This contains between 90 and 120 yellow-green eggs. The egg-sack remains in the female’s burrow until the spiderlings emerge.
The male funnel-web spider reaches sexual maturity at the age of 4 years; the female at 5 years. The male spider typically lives another 6 to 8 months after reaching maturity. Females may continue breeding for around 2 years.
What Do Sydney Funnel-Web Spiders Eat?
The Sydney funnel-web spider feeds mainly on insects such as beetles, cockroaches and the larvae of various other species, as well as on other small invertebrates such as millipedes and land snails. Some small vertebrates, including frogs and lizards, may also occasionally feature in the spider’s diet.
The Sydney funnel-web spider is an ambush predator. Hidden in its burrow, it lies in wait for a suitable prey animal to approach.
Upon sensing movement via the ‘trip wire’ threads of web outside of the burrow, the spider rushes out and repeatedly bites the victim. The spider’s powerful venom quickly subdues the prey, which is then dragged into the burrow and eaten.
Is The Sydney Funnel-Web Spider Dangerous To Humans?
The Sydney funnel-web spider’s venom contains a compound that is highly toxic to humans and other primates (although the venom of the female appears to be less potent than that of the male).
The spider’s venom is a neurotoxin. It causes fibrillation (constant firing of the nerves) in humans. This can speed up heart rate, raise blood pressure and cause breathing difficulties.
A bite from a Sydney funnel-web spider is considered a medical emergency, especially in children.
Although the Sydney funnel-web spider inhabits urban areas, has an aggressive nature and possesses potent venom, don’t cancel your vacation to Sydney just yet; no deaths have been caused by the species since the introduction of an anti-venom in 1981.
Is The Sydney Funnel-Web Spider Endangered?
The Sydney funnel-web spider has not been rated by the IUCN.