Please Sign In

Please enter a valid username and password
  • Log in with Facebook
» Not a member? Take a moment to register
» Forgot Username or Password

Why Register?
Signing up could earn you gear (click here to learn how)! It also keeps offensive content off our site.

Unknown Tarantula Species Invades Remote Indian Village, Killing 2

Recent Comments

Categories

Recent Posts

Archives

Syndicate

Google Reader or Homepage
Add to My Yahoo!
Add to My AOL

Field Notes
in your Inbox

Enter your email address to get our new post everyday.

June 06, 2012

Unknown Tarantula Species Invades Remote Indian Village, Killing 2

By Chad Love

If you don’t like spiders, then you might want to stop reading here and go make sure you've got a can of RAID handy. It seems a new and previously unknown species of tarantula is invading a remote part of India, and authorities don't yet know if the two fatalities (and counting) attributed to the spiders are from the bite itself or the witch doctor treatments terrified villagers are seeking.

From this story on suntimes.com:
Large biting spiders have sparked panic in remote northeast India, but health authorities fear primitive treatment of the bites’ painful swelling may be more dangerous than the spiders themselves. Two people died in Tinsukia district after witch doctors used razor blades to drain the wounds.

It’s not known if the victims died from spider poison or from the attempted treatment. Local magistrate Kishore Thakuria said the victims were cremated before autopsies could be done. Another seven bite victims have been treated with antibiotics against infection after they also tried themselves to drain their wounds, said Dr. Anil Phapowali at the local Sadiya town hospital.

According to the story, the spiders, which are about the size of a thumb, were first noticed a month ago. Scientists haven't been able to identify what, exactly, they are, so they cannot use anti-venom to treat the bites. Villagers are trying to keep the spiders at bay by keeping lamps on at night and posting guards at doorways. Anyone have a creepy spider story to top this one?

Comments (6)

Top Rated
All Comments
from Longbeard wrote 1 year 44 weeks ago

Talk about arachnaphobia! Eight Legged Freaks! Nope, got nothing to beat that story. Ticks, yes. Spiders, well, guess I've just been lucky.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Tony White wrote 1 year 44 weeks ago

Hello Chad and the Field and Stream staff. I love your website and magazine I visit here regularly.
That being said, please try to fact check a bit more before posting stories. It was already reported that this story is not quite true. People have been bitten, however experts have already concluded it is not a new species of spider, if a spider at all. Just dig a little more. Thanks for all your info and stories, oh but for lords sake please find a better way to browse photos its so damn tedious your website tech is behind the times. Thanks

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dustin Nussbaum wrote 1 year 44 weeks ago

I have to agree with Tony. They're looking into the situation, but the only factual information about the occurrence is that the two bodies were cremated without any formal or informal autopsy or toxicology report. If the pictures I've seen of the specimen thus far are, in fact, the creature at hand...it appears to either be a Myglamorph which is not in the actual "Tarantula" category, or an oldworld species likely from the Ornithoctinae sub-class.

To make matters even more difficult to hash out; is that it is possible to die of fright. If you're bitten by a Black Widow (an affliction which will raise bloodpressure) and believe you'll die...the stress induced on an already taxed circulatory system is very capable of causing a stroke or heart attack. Nothing induces panic more than truly believing you -will- die from being bitten. Known Ornithoctinae type Tarantulas are not deadly, but the pain associated with the known species is quite severe, and pain is yet another ailment which -will- lead to heightened blood pressure.

There are, however, forms of Myglamorphs which are a bit more "weird" and do not fit into any of the larger categories of spiders, tarantulas, so forth. The Funnel Web from Australia is a very primitive Myg which packs quite a wallop.

I hope this clears things up, at least a bit. Unfortunately Red Herrings occur often when folklore and fear of arachnids are mixed. I'm not sure whether Assam is a technologically cultured village or old fashioned, but things worsen if such ordeals involve a group of people who are more prone to superstition and tales of yore. Having 18 years of experience with many genii of Tarantula (yes, since I was 10) I've seen and heard almost every myth and misinformation available. Due to the shockingly large percentage of fear that has continued into this 21st century, frankly I wouldn't be surprised if the creatures at hand were completely harmless aside from the fear factor involved.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dustin Nussbaum wrote 1 year 44 weeks ago

Mygalomorph^ and Ornithoctoninae, my bad...probably should have waited until I was fully awake.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Louzianajones wrote 1 year 44 weeks ago

True or not, the stories make good reading.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Craig Edwards wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

Regarding the Myglamorph/funnel-web theory:

The spiders were reported as jumping. No Australian funnel-web (and to my knowledge, all funnelwebs are native to Australia) is able to jump.

To my understanding, whilst early reports rose the possibility of a new species, those with relevant expertise quickly clarified that it was overwhelmingly more likely that it was simply a species that wasn't native to India. Many spider breeds can - very rarely - 'swarm' to plague proportions due to rapid breeding following flood or natural disaster (the spiders breed slightly more, but mostly it's due to a lack of predators post-flood); a species that isn't native to the area would do so to a greater extent if there's a lack of natural predators (creatures that usually eat spiders may be wary of eating a species that they aren't familiar with).

That, together with the rough size (2-3 inches, big but smaller than most tarantulas), unusually strong grip and bite, and the aggression (some funnel-web breeds - such as the infamous 'world's most dangerous spider' Sydney funnel-web - will attack unprovoked and even chase you across a room) led to suspicion that it was a funnel-web breed. But, as an Australian myself, there are other much more likely breeds. The black wishbone spider is the right size, causes some hefty nausea but isn't fatal except for a rare but severe allergic reaction that some folk get. And unlike the funnel-web, it can jump.

Also, there's a very direct reason why it probably isn't a funnel-web. If it was, given the lack of suitable antivenom (they have a combination of 50 or so neuro-toxins: you need the specific antivenom, not a general one) you'd expect there to be more deaths. There's been no deaths from funnel-webs since the anti-venom was widely introduced, but before then, the Sydney funnelweb would kill on most bites in 2-6 hours (fastest death was 15 minutes after the bite, but that was a small child). At the very least, there'd be some crowded hospitals, and absolutely no doubt about the spider in question - even the less deadly sub-species can kill (and a couple are actually more poisonous than the sydney version, but lack its characteristic aggression), and prior to the antivenom, survivors would usually be in hospital for at least a fortnight (one week of which would be spent fighting for life). Even with the antivenom, a bite will keep you laid up in hospital for most of a week.

Now a small Indian town might choose to send folk home rather than taking up much-needed hospital space, but you'd still have a lot of very ill people, and a lot more than 2 deaths.

My guess? It's a black wishbone or similarly mildly venomous species, with most of the more severe symptoms being due to allergy or infection (the downward bite of many the primitive species found here in Australia carries a higher than usual risk of necrosis and other serious infection).

Having said that, I wouldn't be THAT amazed if it isn't even a spider species. With the non-jumping, more poisonous, funnel-web ruled out, there simply aren't many other breeds of spider that will act so aggressively.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from Longbeard wrote 1 year 44 weeks ago

Talk about arachnaphobia! Eight Legged Freaks! Nope, got nothing to beat that story. Ticks, yes. Spiders, well, guess I've just been lucky.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Tony White wrote 1 year 44 weeks ago

Hello Chad and the Field and Stream staff. I love your website and magazine I visit here regularly.
That being said, please try to fact check a bit more before posting stories. It was already reported that this story is not quite true. People have been bitten, however experts have already concluded it is not a new species of spider, if a spider at all. Just dig a little more. Thanks for all your info and stories, oh but for lords sake please find a better way to browse photos its so damn tedious your website tech is behind the times. Thanks

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dustin Nussbaum wrote 1 year 44 weeks ago

I have to agree with Tony. They're looking into the situation, but the only factual information about the occurrence is that the two bodies were cremated without any formal or informal autopsy or toxicology report. If the pictures I've seen of the specimen thus far are, in fact, the creature at hand...it appears to either be a Myglamorph which is not in the actual "Tarantula" category, or an oldworld species likely from the Ornithoctinae sub-class.

To make matters even more difficult to hash out; is that it is possible to die of fright. If you're bitten by a Black Widow (an affliction which will raise bloodpressure) and believe you'll die...the stress induced on an already taxed circulatory system is very capable of causing a stroke or heart attack. Nothing induces panic more than truly believing you -will- die from being bitten. Known Ornithoctinae type Tarantulas are not deadly, but the pain associated with the known species is quite severe, and pain is yet another ailment which -will- lead to heightened blood pressure.

There are, however, forms of Myglamorphs which are a bit more "weird" and do not fit into any of the larger categories of spiders, tarantulas, so forth. The Funnel Web from Australia is a very primitive Myg which packs quite a wallop.

I hope this clears things up, at least a bit. Unfortunately Red Herrings occur often when folklore and fear of arachnids are mixed. I'm not sure whether Assam is a technologically cultured village or old fashioned, but things worsen if such ordeals involve a group of people who are more prone to superstition and tales of yore. Having 18 years of experience with many genii of Tarantula (yes, since I was 10) I've seen and heard almost every myth and misinformation available. Due to the shockingly large percentage of fear that has continued into this 21st century, frankly I wouldn't be surprised if the creatures at hand were completely harmless aside from the fear factor involved.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dustin Nussbaum wrote 1 year 44 weeks ago

Mygalomorph^ and Ornithoctoninae, my bad...probably should have waited until I was fully awake.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Louzianajones wrote 1 year 44 weeks ago

True or not, the stories make good reading.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Craig Edwards wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

Regarding the Myglamorph/funnel-web theory:

The spiders were reported as jumping. No Australian funnel-web (and to my knowledge, all funnelwebs are native to Australia) is able to jump.

To my understanding, whilst early reports rose the possibility of a new species, those with relevant expertise quickly clarified that it was overwhelmingly more likely that it was simply a species that wasn't native to India. Many spider breeds can - very rarely - 'swarm' to plague proportions due to rapid breeding following flood or natural disaster (the spiders breed slightly more, but mostly it's due to a lack of predators post-flood); a species that isn't native to the area would do so to a greater extent if there's a lack of natural predators (creatures that usually eat spiders may be wary of eating a species that they aren't familiar with).

That, together with the rough size (2-3 inches, big but smaller than most tarantulas), unusually strong grip and bite, and the aggression (some funnel-web breeds - such as the infamous 'world's most dangerous spider' Sydney funnel-web - will attack unprovoked and even chase you across a room) led to suspicion that it was a funnel-web breed. But, as an Australian myself, there are other much more likely breeds. The black wishbone spider is the right size, causes some hefty nausea but isn't fatal except for a rare but severe allergic reaction that some folk get. And unlike the funnel-web, it can jump.

Also, there's a very direct reason why it probably isn't a funnel-web. If it was, given the lack of suitable antivenom (they have a combination of 50 or so neuro-toxins: you need the specific antivenom, not a general one) you'd expect there to be more deaths. There's been no deaths from funnel-webs since the anti-venom was widely introduced, but before then, the Sydney funnelweb would kill on most bites in 2-6 hours (fastest death was 15 minutes after the bite, but that was a small child). At the very least, there'd be some crowded hospitals, and absolutely no doubt about the spider in question - even the less deadly sub-species can kill (and a couple are actually more poisonous than the sydney version, but lack its characteristic aggression), and prior to the antivenom, survivors would usually be in hospital for at least a fortnight (one week of which would be spent fighting for life). Even with the antivenom, a bite will keep you laid up in hospital for most of a week.

Now a small Indian town might choose to send folk home rather than taking up much-needed hospital space, but you'd still have a lot of very ill people, and a lot more than 2 deaths.

My guess? It's a black wishbone or similarly mildly venomous species, with most of the more severe symptoms being due to allergy or infection (the downward bite of many the primitive species found here in Australia carries a higher than usual risk of necrosis and other serious infection).

Having said that, I wouldn't be THAT amazed if it isn't even a spider species. With the non-jumping, more poisonous, funnel-web ruled out, there simply aren't many other breeds of spider that will act so aggressively.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment