Brazilian wandering spider

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Phoneutria, commonly known as Brazilian wandering spiders, armed spiders (armadeiras, as they are known in Brazilian Portuguese), or banana spiders (a name shared with several others), are a genus of aggressive and venomous spiders of potential medical significance to humans. They are mainly found in tropical South America, with one species in Central America. These spiders are members of the family Ctenidae of wandering spiders.

The Brazilian wandering spiders appear in Guinness World Records from 2010 as the world’s most venomous spider. Guinness World Records states that although the Brazilian wandering spider venom is the most toxic, an effective antivenom is available and few fatalities occur.

The spiders in the genus can grow to have a leg span of 13 to 15 cm (5.1 to 5.9 in). Their body length ranges from 17 to 48 mm (0.67 to 1.89 in). While some other araneomorph spiders have a longer leg span, the largest Phoneutria species have the longest body and the greatest body weight in this group. The genus is distinguished from other related genera such as Ctenus by the presence of dense prolateral scopulae (a dense brush of fine hairs) on the pedipalp tibiae and tarsi in both sexes. Phoneutria are easily confused with several other non-medically significant ctenids, especially Cupiennius, in which the recently described C. chiapanensis also has bright red hairs on the chelicerae. Additionally, some Phoneutria species lack red hairs on the chelicerae, making it an unreliable identification feature. The presence of a dark linear stripe or stripes on the frontal (dorsal) palps and presence of a single thin black line running anterior-posterior along the dorsal carapace may help identify Phoneutria. Other features are the strong ventral marking on the underside of the legs with contrasting dark mid-segments and lighter joints, and the pattern on the ventral (underside) of the abdomen with several rows of black dots, or an overall reddish colour.

The characteristic defensive posture with frontal legs held high is an especially good indicator to confirm a specimen is Phoneutria,[6] especially alongside correct colour patterns. During the defensive display the body is lifted up into an erect position, the first two pairs of legs are lifted high (revealing the conspicuous black/light-banded pattern on the leg underside), while the spider sways from side to side with hind legs in a cocked position.

Phoneutria are found in forests from Costa Rica, and throughout South America east of the Andes into northern Argentina, including Colombia, Venezuela, the Guianas, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil and Paraguay. Three species (P. reidyi, P. boliviensis and P. fera) are found in the Amazon region, one species (P. fera) is restricted to the Amazon, and one (P. boliviensis) ranges into Central America in Panama and Costa Rica. The remaining species are restricted to Atlantic Forest of Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil, including forest fragments in the Cerrado savanna. In Brazil, Phoneutria is only absent in the northeastern region north of Salvador, Bahia.

Phoneutria has been introduced to Chile and Uruguay. source

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