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Spiders and Amphibians

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Amphibians

Australia has a very large number of frogs with 92% of these found nowhere else in the world. There are far too many to cover in detail but I will include the two best known to me and some pictures of some of the others.

green frog.jpg (8695 bytes)Common Green Tree Frog

This is the best known frog in the tropics and is often found in toilets, bathrooms, downpipes, etc. They are much loved. It measures 10cm in length and calls during rain or high humidity.

 

Cane Toad ***canetoad.jpg (9043 bytes)

Public Enemy number one, the cane toad was introduced to Queensland in 1935 and they have expanded their population and are considered a pest. Their territory has expanded to northern New South Wales and the Northern Territory where they are threatening the habitat of Kakadu National Park. They are primarily insect eaters but will also eat their young, frogs, mice, and small lizards. They also steal food from dog and cat bowls. Male toads will mate with anything resembling a female, even a dead female. They are very tolerant and are highly poisonous to eat at every stage of their life cycle as many dogs and cats have unfortunately discovered. They secrete chemicals from special glands in their skin. Death can come within 15minutes from a dose of venom.

blue mountains tree frog-east vic & nsw.jpg (7347 bytes)       freycinet's frog- NSW coast.jpg (9476 bytes)      northern dwarf tree frog.jpg (7942 bytes)      broad palmed rocket frog.jpg (8753 bytes)
Above: Blue Mountains Tree Frog, Freycinets Frog, Northern Dwarf Tree Frog, Broad Palmed Rocket Frog

Below: Red Eyed Tree Frog, Spotted Thighed Frog, Striped Marsh Frog, Yellow Spotted Tree Frog
red eyed tree frog.jpg (5778 bytes)      spotted thighed frog.jpg (11583 bytes)       striped marsh frog.jpg (10297 bytes)      yellow spotted tree frog-NE NSW.jpg (11052 bytes)

Spiders

Australia has a large number of species of spiders also. I have just chosen some of the most common here. Five of the world's deadliest spiders are in Australia.

funnelweb.jpg (3718 bytes)Funnel-web Spiders ***

Found in eastern Australia and Tasmania in coastal and highland forest regions, 36 species of funnel-webs have been identified. Most species burrow in moist, cool, sheltered habitats and a burrow is identified by irregular silk trip-lines. Rain causes increased activity of funnel-webs which are usually only active at nights. They are large spiders ranging from 1.5cm to 4.5cm in body length and have a glossy dark brown to black colour. Their abdomen is usually dark plum to black and not patterned. The Sydney funnel-web spider is highly venomous to humans but other animals such as dogs and cats are relatively resistant. The male is more dangerous as the toxic venom affecting humans is only present in the male. Antivenom is available and no deaths have occurred since it was introduced.

Huntsman Spidershuntsman.jpg (7315 bytes)

There are three kinds of huntsman spiders (common, shield, and tropical) which are widely distributed around Australia, and are commonly found in houses. These spiders do bite but generally the bite only results in local pain and swelling. An exception is the Shield Huntsman which can cause headache, vomiting, prolongued pain, and an irregular pulse. These spiders are long, long-legged, and measure up to 15cm across the legs. The Common Huntsman has a flattened body. The Tropical Huntsman is patterned brown, white, and black while the Shield Huntsman is usually a fawn or grey colour on top with combinations of black, white, orange, or yellow underneath.

orb spider.jpg (5490 bytes)Orb Weaving Spiders

The three types of orb spiders in Australia are garden, banded, and golden. The common garden orb spiders are found in eastern and southern Australia and they are reddish brown or grey in colour. Banded orb weaving spiders from eastern Australia have bands across the abdomen. The Golden orb spider are common around Sydney, and are large spiders with silvery brown to plum coloured bodies. These golden orb spiders get their name from their golden silk. This type of spider doesn't usually bite and if it does, symptoms include mild local pain, numbness, and swelling.

Trapdoor Spiderstrapdoor1.jpg (4766 bytes)

This name applies to several different families of spiders and not all build a door for their burrows. One species I will cover is the brown trapdoor spider of eastern Australia. Their burrows don't have trapdoors and are found scattered over lawns, their burrows distinguished from funnel-web burrows by the lack of a tripline at the entrance. They commonly prey on grasshoppers, moths, beetles, and crickets. These spiders are a dull brown colour and there are often pale bars across the abdomen. The male will seek out a mate in humid weather. Their bites are not dangerous but local pain and swelling may occur.

redback.jpg (5130 bytes)Red Back Spider ***

These are found throughout Australia in urban areas and it is a close relative of the Black Widow Spider. The red-back prefers to live close to human habitation, placing its webs in dry, sheltered sites including logs, sheds, toilets, junk piles, rocks, etc. Many people may know the Australian folk song "Red Back On The Toilet Seat"? Generally feeding on insects, it is capable of capturing small lizards, large crickets, and trapdoor spiders. It is also known to steal food from other webs. The female is black (or sometimes brownish) with an orange to red stripe on the upper abdomen and another red/orange spot on the underside. Its body is about 1cm long. The males are much smaller and the red markings are less visible. It is light brown with white markings on the abdomen. Grey house spiders and cupboard spiders are often mistaken for red-backs. These spiders bite frequently, particularly in summer. Antivenom is used more than 250 times a year with many other cases unreported. Only the female bite is dangerous, causing serious illness and even death. Common early symptoms are increasing pain, sweating, muscular weakness, nausea, and vomiting. No deaths have occurred since the introduction of antivenom. If shoes are left outside, always shake them out before putting them on.

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