HomeNewsSpider Woman identifies redback pretender

Spider Woman identifies redback pretender

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Giant redback spider or something else? A local family were surprised to discover what they thought was a massive redback spider in their garden was something else.

A Bundaberg family who thought they had come across a massive redback spider, bigger than a 50 cent piece, have been surprised to find the creepy crawly was something else in disguise.

Chris Firth said her son and grandson, Tim and Jaydee Blackley, were getting stuck into some backyard pruning at her Thabeban home over the Easter break when they found the massive “redback”.

“When my grandson Jaydee found it on the ground he called us over to see it, then I raced inside and got a jar to catch it,” she said.

“It is the biggest I have ever seen, bigger than a 50-cent coin.”

Capturing the spider in a jar, Chris snapped a few photos for Facebook and her post quickly garnered more than 100 comments of people in awe about the size of the creature.

Chris had intentions to send the spider away for research purposes until learning the giant redback was not a redback at all.

When Bundaberg Now sent photos of the spider to the University of Queensland, researcher Samantha Nixon was quick to point out the arachnid was actually an Australian garden orbweaver (Eriophora transmarina) using its camouflage ability to disguise itself as a redback.

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Spider Woman Sam Nixon with Golden Orb “Big Bessie”. Photo: University of Queensland

“It's called Batesian mimicry – an edible animal pretending to be something dangerous to avoid predators,” Samantha said.

“True redbacks (Latrodectus hasselti) would never reach that size, have a totally different shape and legs and lack the hairiness you can see in this photo.

“So you can breathe a sigh of relief that you do not have giant redbacks under your toilet seat!”

Samantha said an orb weaver's ability to transform into a redback had been relatively unknown up until recently.

“I had never seen them mimic redbacks until actually this month when a few people around Gympie posted photos online,” she said.

“Strange and cool.”

Sam said she had seen many instances of orb weavers and their ability to transform to match their surroundings and found the whole ordeal fascinating.

“I actually tweeted about Eriophora this morning,” she said.

“Mine disguises herself to match the colour of the bricks of my house.”

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Photo: Twitter

As part of her role at the University of Queensland, “Spider Woman” Samantha is searching for arachnids to replenish the live spider collection for IMB venom research.

The research is helping to find new medicines for the three ‘terrors' of neurological disease: stroke, epilepsy, and chronic pain.

If you have a spider which may benefit venom research, please don't head out with your bug catcher – send a photo to the IMB Venom team, and they can advise if it could be part of their collection.

Find out more here.

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