ACTINOPODIDAE Mouse Spiders

Mouse Spiders are powerful, compact spiders with a wide eye region - much wider than any other Australian mygalomorph. They have a wide front to their carapace. The fangs point towards each other slightly rather than being strictly parallel. In Australia they are found throughout the mainland, usually in open forest. Some live in closed forests where they build well-disguised tubes concealed by soil. Their burrows can have two distinct doors. There is only one Australian actinopodid genus, Missulena, with 16 currently described species, including two described in 2013 and another four described in 2014. Missulena bradleyi appears only in the eastern States, Missulena occatoria in all of Australia except Tasmania, Missulena dipsaca likewise, Missulena pruinosa tending northerly in Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory, while the remaining are mostly restricted to Western Australia. It is expected there are at least three times as many undescribed species. Other Actinopodids are found in South America, hinting at a Gondwanan connection. Mouse Spiders are relatively well known for two reasons. Firstly, males of some species have a vivid red cephalothorax and chelicerae, and light blue to purple or black bodies, and wander by day - stunning animals to photograph. The other reason is because of the toxicity of their venom which in some species is similar to Australian Funnelweb venom. The Australian Funnelweb antivenom has been effective in medical cases. Even though they have been known to bite people who have accidentally stumbled upon them, they are often dry bites. It seems they rarely inject their venom in these situations. Presumably if they can escape without having to use venom, they can save it for their prey. Nevertheless they should not be disturbed or handled as they are potentially dangerous, even deadly.

Missulena bradleyi

Missulena bradleyi Rainbow, 1914 Bradley's Mouse Spider
Missulena bradleyi Bradley's Mouse Spider. This is the most common and widespread Mouse Spider in eastern Australia. It was initially thought to be... 

Missulena occatoria by Judy Dunlop

Missulena occatoria Walckenaer, 1805 Red-headed Mouse Spider
The Red-Headed Mouse Spider is a large mygalomorph spider found almost everywhere in Australia, most common in NSW and Western Australia, apparently absent from the far north and Tasmania. It is found in most habitats, from open forests to desert shrublands. Males, with their bright red... 

 

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