Eastern Mouse Spider
Brownish or blue-black
East coastal and highland
The eastern mouse spider, Missulena bradleyi, is endemic to the east coast of Australia. Eastern mouse spiders are often mistaken for Australian funnel-web spiders. Their fangs often cross over while those of funnel-webs remain parallel, and the latter often have a drop of venom on their fang tips.
There are 11 known species in the mouse spider genus, all but one of which are indigenous to Australia. The name derives from an old belief, now known to be false, that the spiders dig deep burrows similar to those of mice.
There is evidence that the bite of a mouse spider is potentially as serious as that of an Australasian funnel-web spider; however, recorded envenoming by this spider is rare. Funnel-web antivenom has been found to be an effective treatment for serious bites.
Mouse spiders are medium-to-large specimens, which range in length from 1 cm to 3 cm. Their carapace is glossy, and they have high, broad heads, with eyes spread out across the front of the head. They have short spinnerets, located in the rear of the abdomen. Mouse spiders exhibit sexual dimorphism, with female spiders being all black and male spiders having species-specific colouration. The male eastern mouse spider has a bluish patch on its abdomen.
Mouse spiders prey mainly on insects, though they may consume other small animals as opportunity presents. The primary predators of the mouse spider include wasps, bandicoots, centipedes, and scorpions.
The mouse spiders range throughout Australia, with different species being found in different states there. Similar to trapdoor spiders, the mouse spider lives in burrows covered with trapdoors, which can extend to nearly 30 cm in depth. Female mouse spiders generally remain in their burrows whilst the males will wander in search of mates.
The bites of several species of mouse spider in Australia have been found to produce serious symptoms, similar to the Australasian funnel-web spider. However, serious envenoming is relatively rare; most mouse spider bites documented in the medical literature did not require use of antivenom or involve serious symptoms. The venom of the eastern mouse spider was found to have toxins similar to the robustoxin found in funnel-web venom; and funnel-web antivenom has been found to be effective in treating severe mouse spider bites. Unlike the funnel-web, however, the mouse spider is far less aggressive towards humans, and may often give ‘dry’ bites.
Photo and information are provided by WR Gay Pest Control Pty Ltd and Bayer.
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