Raw and poisonous: the most toxic spiders in the world turned out to be relatives

San José, California.- They live in different areas of Australia and are considered the most poisonous of spiders. In fact, an antivenom had to be created because many people were in danger of dying each year because of their bites.

A new study led by biologist Marshal Hedin of San Diego State University discovered an unexpected relationship between Australian funnel web spiders and mouse spiders.

This finding will help to better understand both species, to prepare better against attacks of these and other species (with more efficient sera) and also to the development of new forms of bioinsecticides (that work against insects but are harmless for vertebrate animals).

Hedin discovered that the two lineages of Australian arachnids that had long been classified as very distant in the official taxonomy or nomenclature are, in fact, fairly close evolutionary cousins.

How did he know? When he learned that in Australian hospitals the antivenom serum used to fight cases of bites of one species also worked for the other, he decided to review the
evolutionary ‘map’ of these species, namely the family tree and its evolutionary relatives.

With the names of both species of spiders (Atricinae and Actinopodidae) it seemed that they had separated from a common ancestor more than 200 million years ago and, therefore, were only distantly related.

But collecting new specimens and paving the museums and private collections of biologists from New Zealand and even Argentina could see that they looked alike.

Then, in the laboratory, the scientists sequenced large fragments of the spider genomes, looking for genetic patterns and were able to confirm that in fact both species of spiders were more closely related than previously thought.

During this study, incidentally, Hedin and his colleagues also discovered the existence of three taxonomic families of spiders completely new to science.

The results of the research were published in Nature Scientific Reports.

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Diane Elliot

About the Author: Diane Elliot

Diane Elliot is a seasoned journalist with nearly 12 years experience. While studying journalism at University of Southern California, Diane found a passion for finding engaging stories. As a contributor to Coastal Morning Star, Diane mostly covers human interest pieces.

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