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Examining the evidence for rare fauna.

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Netcasting spider (Deinopsis subrufa)Printable Version

Netcasting spider (Deinopsis subrufa) - click to enlarge

I knew this was something new. That is to say, this spider may well be common, but when I found it, I couldn't recall ever seeing its kind before. Whatever possessed me to pick it up, especially in light of my earlier warning (Do not handle any spiders, especially in Australia)?

Firstly, it was clearly neither a funnel web, nor a redback - which are the two most dangerous Australian spiders - and secondly, it was incredibly uninclined to bite. The only thing this spider wanted to do was to move away. Yes, I realised I ran the risk of a trip to hospital for envenomation by an unknown spider species, but this spider was just too gorgeous, and you really don't get a sense of scale unless you see it against something familiar, such as a hand.

In the end, I quickly identified the spider using Ed Nieuwenhuys' fantastic website on the spiders of Australia. I cannot recommend this site highly enough.

Netcasting spider (Deinopsis subrufa) - click to enlarge

In this front-on shot, you can see the two enormous eyes which give it a somewhat menacing look. In fact, these form part of its primary arsenal for capturing prey. As its name implies, this species casts a net to capture food.

The Australian Museum factsheet on netcasting spiders gives an excellent sequence of photos showing the spider's netcasting in action. Interestingly, the last photo shows white "aiming spots" which the spider creates in order to help it accurately target its prey.

Although one of my goals at WLMD is to provide you with superb high quality photos of wildlife, I simply have to direct you to Mr Nieuwenhuys' site again, for a most exceptional close-up macro photographs of a spider's face. You can see two much smaller eyes below the large ones, and another eye on top of its head, just above and to the left of the large eyes.

Netcasting spider (Deinopsis subrufa) - click to enlarge

Here you can see the exquisite markings on the spider's upper surfaces, and also its cigar-shaped abdomen. In this photo it has drawn pairs of legs together, somewhat resembling any of a number of other species which do likewise. Possibly the most well known name amongst these is the Saint Andrew's Cross spider, but that species has a very different appearance.

There is an information brochure on management of spider bites (large but very interesting file) available from the Australian Doctor website which has some great information on spider bites.

In their study, 750 bites (spider collected, and expertly identified) were investigated and the netcasting spider doesn't receive a mention. Interestingly, the jumping spiders (family Salticidae) - written about elsewhere on WLMD - accounted for 5 percent of the bites. Presumably bite victims reported their bites due to pain and/or concern. Either netcasting spiders don't hurt, or they don't bite often enough and missed out on being investigated.

Nieuwenhuys refers to twelve species of netcasting spider, in two genera (Deinopsis with six, and Avella or Menneus with six), in the family Deinopidae.

Links to related information...

Topic Area - Spiders
Topic Area - Spiders
Topic Area - Spiders
Topic Area - Spiders

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