Discovery of 25,000 diving tarantulas in Northern Territory
A TINY settlement in the sparsely-populated Northern Territory of Australia has been the subject of scientific attention, after it was discovered that a nearby flood plain is home to an infestation of 25,000 tarantulas from a newly-discovered species.
However, rather than this unsettling news making sure that no-one will ever visit the town again, a leading Australian arachnologist believes that this could be good news for the remote community of Maningrada, which is over 300 miles from Darwin, the nearest city.
Dr Robert Raven, a senior curator at the Queensland Museum, believes that the venom of the spiders, which is strong enough to induce vomiting in humans, could be used for medical research purposes.
Speaking to the Sydney Morning Herald, he said that "pharmaceutical applications could apply across a broad spectrum."
The spider, which is commonly called the diving tarantula due to its worrying ability to survive underwater by creating air bubbles, was only discovered in 2006, and the full potential of it as a medical resource has not yet been realised.
The uniquely high concentration of spiders in Maningrada means that it would make the business of finding the spiders and extracting their venom much easier.
Dr Raven said that the normal colony size is only around two or three hundred spiders - around 100 times smaller than the size of the newly-discovered cluster.
The sheer size of the Maningrada group could be very attractive to biologists and medical researchers trying to find out more about the under-researched creatures.
Dr Raven hopes that the attractiveness of the region to researchers could work in favour of the small community, which is mostly made up of Aboriginal people.
He told ABC News that the intellectual property surrounding the spider belongs to the community.
He said: "This is a resource for the community in a number of ways... and this could flow back into the community eventually to help them manage the parks better."
He added that he hopes young and strong scientists, capable of handling the harsh conditions, isolation and difficult spiders found in Maningrada, will take up the challenge of finding out more about the mysterious diving tarantula.