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The fangs of this Australian funnel-web spider may be the most dangerous "teeth" in the world.
The funnel-web's fangs are part of its chelicerae, or mouthparts. (Spiders do not have jaws. Chelicerae are pointed appendages.) The funnel-web's chelicerae are slightly different than most spiders. The funnel-web's fangs point down, parallel, along the length of the spider's body. The fangs of most spiders oppose each other, pinching their victim as they bite.
Like most spiders, the fangs of the funnel-web are hollow. They are connected to venom glands, which the spider can control. There are three major types of venom bites. Dry bites contain no venom at all—these bites usually just cause itching and irritation. The second type of bite is where the venom released is appropriate to the animal being bitten. The funnel-web releases less venom when biting a fly, for instance, than when biting a beetle or cockroach. The most dangerous bite, a maximal dose, occurs when the spider releases as much venom as possible.
The fangs of a funnel-web spider are very strong—they can pierce through shoe leather and fingernails. Even a dry bite can cause bleeding. A maximal dose can cause muscle spasms, unconsciousness, and death. Fortunately, an effective anti-venom was developed in the 1980s.
Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry anti-venom Noun
drug or other material that treats the effects of venom. Also called antivenin.
part of something that extends out from the main body, such as an arm or leg.
chelicerae Plural Noun
(singular: chelicera) sharp, pointed mouthparts of some insects (arthropods), including spiders, scorpions, ticks, and horseshoe crabs.
dry bite Noun
bite from a venomous animal where no venom is released.
useful or able to perform a task.
long, sharp, protruding tooth. In many animals, fangs are hollow and used to inject venom.
group of cells that secretes a chemical useful for the body to function.
set of bones or exoskeleton that form the framework of the mouth.
maximal dose Noun
largest quantity of a drug that an organism can safely be exposed to.
muscle spasm Noun
sudden, involuntary contraction of a muscle or muscle group.
eight-legged animal (arachnid) that usually spins webs to catch food.
unaware, asleep, or in a sleep-like state.
poison fluid made in the bodies of some organisms and secreted for hunting or protection.