23 August 2017 by Chris Cathrine | Comments: 0
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Caledonian Conservation’s Director, Chris Cathrine, co-authored an article with Stuart Longhorn for The Newsletter of the British Arachnological Society describing a specimen of Phoneutria (P. cf. boliviensis) which was found in Inverbervie (Aberdeenshire) in a banana shipment from Colombia in 2016. SRUC later sent the spider to Caledonian Conservation for identification.
The article was published on 14th August 2017, and provides information on the record, as well as photos and a diagram of the epigyne (female genitals, unique to the species of spider).
With relatively little information published on the identification of Phoneutria (known as ‘wandering spiders’ and belonging to the family Ctenidae, which does not occur naturally in the UK), there was an opportunity to share useful identification details with ecologists working throughout the world. We are proud that the article was quickly added to the World Spider Catalogue – a resource that collates key taxonomic literature on spiders, for use by academic researchers and other ecologists throughout the world.
Despite frequent media reports claiming Phoneutria spiders (sometimes erroneously referred to by the press as ‘painful erection death spiders’) to have been found in the UK and often indicating they are associated with damaging bites to people, there are no previous records published in scientific literature. These reports are rarely substantiated, and the specimens are not normally identified by expert arachnologists. Given the claims of medically important bites, Chris and Stuart felt it would be helpful to describe the effects of the venom of different Phoneutria species based on peer reviewed literature in the article.
It is hoped that this article will help inform a more robust understanding of the occurrence of Phoneutria spiders in the UK, help others identify these species, and be a useful reference source for journalists reporting on wandering spiders in the future.
Learn more about the British Arachnological Society here.