A tiny settlement in the sparsely-populated Northern Territory of Australia has been the subject of scientific attention after it was discovered that a nearby flood plain was home to an infestation of 25,000 tarantulas from a newly-discovered species.
However, rather than this unsettling news making sure that no one would ever visit the town again, a leading Australian arachnologist believes this could be good news for the remote community of Maningrada, which is over 300 miles from Darwin, the nearest city. Dr Robert Raven, a senior curator at the Queensland Museum, believes the venom of the spiders, which is strong enough to induce vomiting in humans, could be used for medical research purposes. Speaking to the Sydney Morning Herald, he said that “pharmaceutical applications could apply across a broad spectrum”
The spider, commonly called the diving tarantula due to its worrying ability to survive underwater by creating air bubbles, was only discovered in 2006 and its full potential as a medical resource has not yet been realised. The uniquely high concentration of spiders in Maningrada means it would make the business of finding the spiders and extracting their venom much easier.
Dr Raven said that the normal colony size was only around 200-300 spiders — around 100 times smaller than the size of the newly-discovered cluster. The sheer size of the Maningrada group could be very attractive to biologists and medical researchers trying to find out more about the under-researched creatures. He hoped the attractiveness of the region to researchers could work in favour of the small community, mostly made up of Aboriginal people. “This is a resource for the community in a number of ways… and this could flow back into the community eventually to help them manage the parks better.”
Doug Bolton/The Independent