Australia is known for having some incredible wildlife. You can find plenty of creatures on the island nation and continent that aren’t found anywhere else in the world. It’s a weird and wonderful place where you can discover numbats, Tasmanian devils, kangaroos, and saltwater crocodiles thriving.
Let’s not forget about the duck-billed platypus, a creature so unusual that people thought it was fake when it was first discovered and shared with the world.
The one creature that doesn’t make the average list of unusual Australian discoveries is the Dolophones family, or the wrap-around spider. This genus, found primarily in Oceania, has 17 species that blend in with their environment by wrapping themselves around branches or against tree bark as a disguise.
When the spiders flatten their bodies, they look like they are part of the tree. You can also find them traveling along the ground, especially in the evening hours. They were first described to the scientific community in 1886.
Are the Wrap-Around Spiders Poisonous?
The Dolophones family of spiders do have some poisonous members. The good news is that the venom they transmit with a bite is not dangerous to humans. Most of them will leave you alone if you’re not bothering them.
Issues arise when someone doesn’t see the spider wrapped around a branch or pressed against a tree. If you contact it with part of your body, there is the possibility that you could get bit. You’ll see a raised area that turns red, but it isn’t problematic unless you have an allergic reaction to the venom.
Most of the wrap-around spiders have upper abdomens that look like an inverted disk. You would then see smaller circles with slits in them, which is how it can wrap itself around a stick during the day to avoid predators.
When night comes, the spiders become active. They’ll spin webs between trees to claim their territory and catch some food.
The female spiders are typically the largest, reaching up to 9mm long. Males are about 60% of that size. Although they look spooky when you come across one, you can keep walking without worry.
Funnel Web Spiders Are a Greater Worry
You can feel the bite from a wrap-around spider, but it isn’t the same as what you’ll experience with a funnel web.
The fangs are long enough on funnel web spiders that they typically leave bleeding puncture holes in the skin. It’s a very painful attack that can produce severe symptoms almost immediately if enough venom gets transferred.
People who funnel web spiders have bitten have reported tingling around the mouth and tongue, muscle twitches, sweating, elevated heart rate, and high blood pressure. This problem set leads to agitation, confusion, spasms, trouble breathing, and extreme hypertension.
Wrap-Around Spiders Aren’t Like the Funnel Webs
The Australian funnel web spider might be the most feared one in the world today. These atracids are considered a separate family, with 35 species all having a home only in Australia. Some of its members produce venom that is dangerous to humans, with bites from six of the species causing severe injuries.
Two family members, the Sydney funnel web and the northern tree-dwelling funnel web, are potentially deadly. If you get bitten in the torso by one, you only have about 15 minutes to find antivenom.
Since the introduction of modern first aid practices and antivenom, no fatalities have been registered by these spiders.
You can tell a funnel web from a wrap-around because of the body shape and size. The funnel web spiders can be up to two inches long, looking almost like a miniature tarantula. They have a hairless carapace along the front of the body. The Sydney version has long spinnerets that make it identifiable immediately.
Although you’ll feel the bite of a wrap-around spider when it happens, the funnel web has even more power in its fans. They’re long and sharp, with enough force to penetrate through shoes or fingernails.
You’ll find the funnel webs in cool, moist, and sheltered habitats. They prefer to live under rocks, in rotting logs, or sometimes in trees with rough bark. You can find them in suburban shrubs, but they are rarely located in open lawns. Their burrow uses silk trip lines that radiate from the entrance.
Wrap-around spiders prefer having more of an open environment. Although that causes them to be more exposed, their camouflage is remarkable. They’re virtually unnoticeable once they flatten themselves against the tree.