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Australian Environmental Issues

Blue-tongue
A true-blue battler

Box jellyfish
How to avoid the stings and what to do if stung

Crocodile
So you wrestle crocs...

Dingo
Unfairly judged in killing off the thylacine?

Echidna
The wise little gnomes of Australia

Emu
Victors of the great Emu war

Flies
Shaping everything from how Australians speak to how they salute

Funnel Web spider
Yyou'll never leave your ugg boots outside

Kangaroo
Most herbivores don't grow a spine until they are the size of an elephant. Not so the roo.

Snakes
Kill less people than cows

Shark attack Australia
How to ensure you don't go by the name of Bob

Tasmanian Devil
The solution to mainland extinctions?

Tasmanian Tiger
A sad tale

Wombat
Keg of muscle

Quoll
The mainland's largest marsupial carnevore

Mythical creatures
Yowies and dropbears; some say they are myths but those who are not afraid to talk have shared their stories

 

 

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The Funnelweb Spider

An arachnophobes worst nightmare

Australia has wonderful beaches, beautiful bushlands and spectacular outback sunsets; however, many tourists are reluctant to visit out of fear of intimidating wildlife and spiders in particular. Some of the blame can be directed at Englishman Douglas Adams who wrote,

"It is true that of the 10 most poisonous arachnids on the planet, Australia has 9 of them. Actually, it would be more accurate to say that of the 9 most poisonous arachnids, Australia has all of them."

In truth, Australia really only has one spider to worry about, but in defence of Adams, in terms of intimidation, that one spider is probably worth the next 9 combined. Big black and hairy, the Funnelweb can grow to a length of 4.5 cm. While the size does make them look quite formidable, it is the fangs that really get the hairs on the back of the neck standing up. The size of cats claws, they literally drip with venom powerful enough to kill several adult humans. Furthermore, the spider raises the claws from a height so that it can strike down with a force powerful enough to pierce a fingernail and embed them deep in the prey's flesh.

Befitting its intimidating appearance, is its venom. The venom contains a toxin called atraxtoxin which attacks the nerves - sending thousands of electrical impulses through them. Muscles twitch violently and the victim experiences a profuse flow of sweat, tears and saliva. Just imagine electric shock treatment that just goes on and on as the victim frothes from the mouth. If left untreated, the victim can suffer respiratory collapse, slip into a coma, suffer brain damage and die. The Funnelweb has killed people in less than 15 minutes. No other spider has killed people in less than two hours.

Curiously, the Funnelweb's venom only affects primates (ie humans) which lack a substance in their blood that inactivates the venom. Other mammals, such as koalas, dogs, rats, magpies and possums, are relatively immune.

On the positive side, Funnelwebs don't nest in houses so contact with humans is rare. They dig themselves a burrow in moist gardens, set up tripwires and attack any cockroaches or beetles that come there way. But occasionally the hunter becomes the hunted as they face aggressive predatation from centipedes, lizards and king crickets.

When mature, adult males leave their burrows in search of females and may occasionally wander into houses and garages. They try to move by night so as to avoid predatation from reptiles, birds and small marsupials. By day they will seek refuge under logs or in slippers. Homeowners are generally advised that when the Funnelweb is about, leaving one's ugg boots outside, no matter how smelly they are, really isn't a wise move.

Sometimes the spider may fall in into backyard swimming pools where they can float supported by air bubbles trapped among their body hairs. If swimming, it is generally advised to avoid touching fluffy balls of black hair. What may look cute floating may soon reveal itself to be something less than cute.

Although they may be a nasty piece of work and are very common throughout Eastern Australia, deaths from Funnelwebs are rare. Prior to the introduction of antivenom in 1980, there had only been 13 known fatalities. Since the antivenom has been in use, no deaths have been recorded.

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An Internet Service Provider is known as Funnelweb Internet.

Industry

1)Pesticides - The Funnelweb's venom may form the basis for new, environmentally friendly pesticides. Tests on one toxin indicate that it kills insects quickly but has no impact on the cells of humans or other mammals.

2) Eradication - Although there is little money in breeding the Funnelweb, there is a great industry based on destroying them. Unfortunately, pest control may also kill or drive away the crickets, centipedes, frogs, lizards, birds and other spiders that prey on the Funnelweb or compete with them for food.

As new Funnelwebs simply move in from the neighbour's property, in the absence of predators and competitors, they can breed unfetted.

 

Invasive ferals

Carp

Carp and Trout
A tale of two ferals

New hope for Cane Toads
The many unknown predators of the toad

Rabbits
A fence almost 2,000 km long to keep rabbits out of WA? Sounds like a great idea! If it doesn't work, we'll build another one!

The Willow
How a change in its status from asset to weed led to fish kills with blackwater and blue-green algae outbreaks

To bait dingos?
Should the health of the ecosystem be considered or just the kennel club registration?

Koala control
What to do about the "koala plague" on Kangaroo Island

Cat
Apex predator in Australia. Confined to urban areas in America.

Environmental values

Environmental problems
How money and ideology shapes environmental "science."

Bushfire
Australia's Stockholm Syndrome with gum trees.

The Kangaroo industry
Should we eat skippy?

Climate change in Australia
Australia was once covered in rainforest. Could it be again?

Sustainability
The dark side of sustainable environmental policies

Native pets
Why no pet wombats?

 

 

       

Australian environmental science is defined by an ideology that is not unlike a prison warden. There, the scientists are not seeing themselves as part of the ecosystem, but as masters over it; protecting the rights of the species that they say have rights and killing those that they say do not…but inevitably killing both.

"It was always seen as desirable to remove or cull the introduced species. We also need to ask whether it was possible to do so, how it should be done, whether it could have unintended consequences and what it would cost? I don't think anyone really asked those questions." Physicist John Reid - 2012