Lampona cylindrata (L. Koch), as shown in red on the map, is found across southern Australia. In the south-east (the orange zone), it overlaps with the closely related species Lampona murina L. Koch, which is present in eastern Australia from north-east Queensland to Victoria.
(QLD, NSW, VIC, SA, TAS, WA)
White-tailed Spiders have a dark reddish to grey, cigar-shaped body (body length in males is about 12 mm, and up to 18 mm long in females); the legs are banded with dark orange-brown. The grey dorsal abdomen bears two pairs of faint white spots (less distinct in adults) with a white spot at the tip; in males, a hard, narrow plate or scute is present on the front of the abdomen. The two common species in southern Australia, Lampona cylindrata and L. murina, are similar in appearance and their distributions overlap in the south-east.
Ecology/Way of Life:
White-tailed Spiders are vagrant hunters that live beneath bark and rocks, in leaf litter, logs and detritus in bush, gardens and houses. Tufts of specialised brush-like hairs on the end of their legs allow them to walk easily on smooth or sloping surfaces. They make temporary silk retreats and spin disc-shaped egg sacs, each containing up to 90 eggs. They are most active at night when they wander about hunting for other spiders, their preferred food. They are known to eat curtain-web spiders (family Dipluridae), daddy-long-legs spiders (family Pholcidae), Redback Spiders (family Theridiidae) and black house spiders (family Desidae). During summer and autumn, White-tailed Spiders are often seen hunting in and around houses, where they find sheltered nooks and crannies, and numerous Black House Spiders, their favoured prey.
Interaction with Humans/Threats:
White-tailed spider bites can cause initial burning pain followed by swelling and itchiness at the bitten area. Occasionally, weals, minor localised blistering or local ulceration have been reported, and together with minor bacterial infection of the wound may contribute to conditions known medically as "necrotising arachnidism".
It is still uncertain whether White-tailed Spiders are involved in cases of severe skin ulceration seen in patients with a probable spider bite. Typically, in such cases no direct evidence of spider bite is available. Sensational media reporting of supposed cases of severe "necrotising arachnidism" has given White-tailed Spiders a bad reputation. Ulcerative skin lesions can have many causes, notably involving various bacterial or fungal infections. A recent study of 52 confirmed White-tailed Spiders bites found no cases of ulceration, backing up the results of an earlier study. The evidence suggests that skin ulceration is not a common outcome of White-tailed Spider bite.
White-tailed Spiders around your house can be controlled by catching and removing any that you see and by clearing away the webs of the house spiders upon which they feed.
Lampona cylindrata was described by L. Koch in 1866 and for many years included the closely related L. murina. Recent taxonomic work has shown that the two are separate species.
The genus name comes from the Latin lampo = shine and the species names from the Latin cylindratus = in the form of a cylinder.
Isbister,G.K. & Gray, M.R. (2000). Acute and recurrent skin ulceration after spider bite. Medical Journal of Australia 172: 303-304.
Platnick, N.I. (2000). A relimitation and revision of the Australasian ground spider family Lamponidae (Araneae: Gnaphosoidea). Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 245: 330 pp.
Sutherland, S.K & Tibballs, J. (2001). Australian Animal Toxins (2nd edition). Oxford University Press.
White J. (1999) Necrotising arachnidism. Medical Journal of Australia Vol 171. 19
Topics:Prey capture Silk Spider webs Venom
Text & map by Mike Gray; photograph by Mike Gray, courtesy of the Australian Museum.
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