QVMAG discovers new funnel web spider species
Published on 13 April 2017
Northern Tasmanians heading off for a spot of camping over the Easter break should watch where they pitch their tents, lest they run across a new species of spider.
Nearly 30 species of unidentified Tasmanian spiders have been found by researchers at the Queen Victoria Museum in the past 18 months, highlighting the diversity of the State's arachnid population and the fact that Tasmania is literally crawling with spiders.
Tasmania is home to several hundred species of spiders, including spitting spiders, jumping spiders, peacock spiders, and a whole army of other arachnids.
QVMAG Collections Officer Simon Fearn recently collected a funnel web spider in a wet forest near Weldborough, which QVMAG Honorary Research Associate John Douglas says is a new species. He has dubbed it the 'Blue Tier funnel web'.
"The question is always asked — are these spiders venomous?" Mr Douglas said.
"The answer is yes, but we don't know how venomous because this is a new species and we don't know if anyone has been bitten before."
Queen Victoria Museum Curator of Natural Sciences David Maynard said the museum received a lot of spiders from the general public through the museum's inquiries program.
"Anyone can drop in a specimen to have it identified and — if it's unique — they can donated the specimen to the collection," Mr Maynard said.
"We also go out into the field to try to find new species and our collection is the envy of museum's across Australia.
"This year we've found between 20 and 30 undescribed species of spider. That will probably freak a few people out, because it's 2017 and many people think we are quite familiar with the animals and insects that live in Tasmania.
"What it shows is that Tasmania has a huge diversity of species among its spider inhabitants, and what's clear is that there is still much more to be discovered.
"Our next step is to liaise with spider taxonomists across the world to have these species properly described.
"In fact, we are exploring the introduction of a new 'scientist in residence' program here at the museum, similar to the artist in residence program that the Council has run for many years.
"There are many researchers across the world who would love to examine our collections, and there would be great benefit for us as a museum, as well to be able to tap into that global expertise."
Mr Douglas said while the female 'Blue Tier funnel web' spiders were likely to stay hidden under logs the majority of the time, the males were more likely to 'wander about'.
"If you do see one, don't just stick your foot on it," Mr Douglas said.
"The museum would be very interested in seeing them, I would be very interested in seeing them, to promote the science and for people to really appreciate these creatures.
"They are beautiful — they might be gruesome — but they are beautiful creatures and we should look after them."