Australia has its share of strange creatures and a lot of strange animals too. Over the past week, two of the strangest and deadliest showed up down under. A white great white shark washed up on a beach while a huge venomous funnel-web spider is turning its life around and helping humanity … or at least humans who have been bitten by funnel-web spiders.
The white great white shark was spotted on a beach in Port Hacking, New South Wales, by local resident Luke Anslow, who said it was alive in the surf when he first saw it. Anslow took pictures of the dead shark which he posted online. Workers from the New South Wales Department of Fisheries retrieved the carcass and brought it in for analysis.
Marine biologists determined that the small shark was a juvenile great white by the shape of its snout and the fact that it had no secondary caudal keel (a small horizontal fin in front of the tail fin) that the similar-looking porbeagle shark has. The shark had no injuries or other indications as to why it beached. As for its white color, the black eyes mean it’s a leucistic, not a pink-eyed albino. Even so, it’s still extremely rare.
Meanwhile over in Newcastle, New South Wales, a brave, unnamed person caught what may be the largest funnel-web spiders ever and turned it in to the John Hunter Hospital which forwarded it to the Australia Reptile Park, home of Australia’s only venom-milking program. Program supervisor Billy Collett said the 10 cm (4 in.) leg span of this spider was the largest he’d ever seen – which explains why he’s now called Big Boy.
Big Boy isn’t just any record-breaking funnel-web … he’s a Sydney funnel-web (Atrax robustus), the most toxic of the species. One bite releases atracotoxin which, in less than 10 minutes, causes intense pain, sweating, nausea, diarrhea, pulmonary edema and circulatory failure. Fortunately, the venom can be collected and injected in small doses into rabbits that build up antibodies which are then extracted and made into an anti-venom serum. There have been 13 recorded deaths from funnel-web spider bites in Australia but none since the anti-venom program began.
A white great white and a deadly giant spider doing good. Only in Australia.