AUSTRALIAN SPIDERS

Many people have an innate fear of spiders, but very few Australian spiders are capable of inflicting a bite that may cause significant pain or prove fatal to humans.

Spiders are the environment’s unsung heroes without which the world as we know it would not exist. That might sound like an exaggeration, but British researchers have estimated that spiders consume some 120 kilos of insects per hectare daily. Without them, or with their numbers significantly reduced, there would be a massive escalation of the insect population resulting in the widespread destruction of crops, which would inevitably lead to famine and starvation on a global scale.

From their origins 360 million years ago, spiders have evolved in ways that enable them to survive in almost every environment on earth, from coastal rock pools, caves, swamps and forests, to deserts and snow-capped mountains. The crowning glory of their evolutionary progress was the ability to produce silk, and it’s this amazing feature and their ingenious use of what is reputedly the world’s strongest natural fibre that has enabled spiders to become highly efficient predators.

More than a third of the approximately 2,000 species of spiders that call Australia home are web builders, others create unique sticky traps to capture their prey, and many are hunters that chase and pounce upon their victims with lightning speed. And with most spiders having at least eight eyes and the ability to see in all directions simultaneously, escape is rarely an option for any insect that comes within a spider’s gaze.

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