The Sydney funnel-web spider (scientifically known as Atrax robustus) is a spider native to Sydney, NSW, Australia and lives in burrows in the shape of funnels hence the name. They are very dangerous to humans and can kill when biting them in just 15 minutes. They are considered the second most venomous spider only being less venomous than the Brazilian wandering spider. Unlike most spiders, provoking them is not all to get them to bite you and if you are bitten it is a medical emergency and you must get antivenom as soon as possible.

The venom they produce is delta atracotoxin which produces extremely fatal symptoms when injected in primates.

What does it look like?

Sydney funnel-web spiders have no obvious body pattern but have a deeply curved groove (fovea) and a shiny, hard, black or brown carapace. There are hairs sparsely covering the front part of the body. Their eyes are also closely grouped and they have four spinnerets with the largest having the last segment longer than the others in width. Their lower lip (labium) is studded with short, blunt spines. While females are larger, males have longer legs and have a modified second leg usually with a mating spur or grouped spines and the lower side of the middle segment (tibia) of the second leg is a characteristic of its genus, Atrax. The Sydney funnel-web spider is considered a medium to large spider varying from 1.5cm to 3.5cm body length.

Where is it?

The Sydney funnel-web spider is located in the east coast of Australia around Sydney but also occurs from Newcastle to Nowra and west to Lithgow. They tend to favour forested upland areas surrounding the lower and more open country of the central Cumberland basin. Their occurrence is low in much of central-western Sydney and the sandy parts of the Botany Bay area. They do better in areas of sandy clay, shale or basaltic soils where they can retain moisture more effectively.

How will it kill you?

The Sydney funnel-web spider can kill you by biting you with its strong fangs. When they are threatened, they show aggressive behaviour by getting up on their hind legs and displaying those fangs. Their venom is so strong that it can kill you in up to 15 minutes. Children are at a particular risk of being bitten by these spiders. Sometimes the spider can also latch onto your body when biting until it's removed.

How do I survive?

Immediately get first aid from a hospital. It also helps to take a picture of the spider that bit you so that doctors can identify the species. When you are in the sight of a funnel-web, do not step on it as they can penetrate through shoes. The best way to survive and avoid getting bitten is to avoid the spider altogether. They tend to live in more urban areas and there have been no recorded deaths since the antivenom for it was introduced in 1981. Still, do follow these procedures so it can remain that way.

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