Dwayne the spider helping to save lives

Thriving: Australia faces a “bonanza” of super-dangerous, funnel-web spiders. © Australian Reptile Park

A deadly spider has been found in Australia, double the size of normal! Named Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson after the Hollywood movie star, it will now help to make vital medicine for humans.

What’s happening

A poisonous spider has been nicknamed “The Rock” because of its huge size.

A gigantic funnel-web spider, double the average size of the highly venomous species, has been found in Australia.

It is so big, it has been given the name Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson after the Hollywood movie star.

Find out more

Dwayne has been a real help to scientists because of the amount of venom he produces.

Venom can be taken from a spider and sent to a vaccine company to be made into anti-venom. This is then used to help protect people or animals in the future.

Anti-venom can be given to someone who has been bitten by a poisonous spider to stop them getting really ill.

But taking venom from a spider is hard work and it often has to be done many times to extract enough for one dose.

This is why scientists are excited.

Liz Gabriel, director of the Australian Reptile Park, said, “Dwayne is unusually large, and more spiders like him will only result in more lives being saved due to the huge amount of venom they can produce.”

Is it weird to use poison to make people better?

Some say…

Yes. It really is odd to think that it can ever be a good idea to cure a human being by giving them something that is bad for them. The normal way we make people better is to give them lots of rest, usually in bed. Then we try to help them to have lots of things that are good for them, such as water, fruit, vegetables, vitamins, and minerals.

Others think…

No! Snakebites kill about 100,000 people a year in parts of the world where snakes are common. The only way to save people is to give them what we call anti-venom. And how do we make that? By injecting animals with very tiny doses of venom and then collecting the natural chemicals produced to fight it – and turning it into medicine.

You Decide

  1. Do all bad things have a good side?

Activities

  1. Draw a funnel-web spider and write notes on the drawing that point out some of its most interesting features.

Some People Say...

“I love spiders. Some might call me obsessed, but I’ve been studying spiders for years.”

Cheryl Hayashi, Hawaiian-born biologist

What do you think?

Word Watch

Funnel-web
These spiders build a sheet web that has a funnel-shaped retreat for the spider on one side. The strands slow down prey that walk into it. As they get tangled up, the spider darts out of its funnel and kills its victim with poison.
Venomous
Poisonous.
Johnson
Also known by his ring name, The Rock, Dwayne Johnson is an US-Canadian actor, producer, investor and retired professional wrestler.
Anti-venom
Anti-venoms work by boosting our immune response after a snakebite. They are made by immunising donor animals, such as horses or sheep with snake venoms. These animals have robust immune systems and produce powerful antibodies that can then be purified for human use.
Vitamins
Nutrients that in small quantities are essential for a healthy body.
Minerals
Minerals required by the body in small amounts for a variety of different functions. They are involved in the formation of bones and teeth. The body needs different amounts of each mineral; people have different requirements, according to their age and sex.

Subjects

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