I am not impressed with your anti-spider bigotry, Science Times

Well, this is a stupid sensationalist headline: New Species of Spider Found in Mexico Able to Rot Human Flesh. Yeah, so? This is a common property of many venoms, such as those in some wasps and snakes, and it makes sense that a spider, which relies on injecting toxins and enzymes that break down cells and tissues, would do so. How else would they slurp out the digested guts of their prey? These spiders have no interest in eating people, or “rotting human flesh”, so it’s an obnoxious way to distort the story.

I can just imagine spider tabloids running stories title “New Species of Primate Found With Large Fleshy Butts Capable of Crushing Innocent Spiders”. It completely misses the story.

Here’s a pic of the lovely beast in question.

It’s called Loxosceles tenochtitlan, and it’s distinguishing characteristic is not that it has a remarkable venom, but that males and females have unique genitals in a lock-and-key arrangement, which is also common in invertebrates.

In a statement released by the university, Valdez-Mondragon explained the difference: “As L.tenochtitlan is morphologically similar to L.misteca, it was initially thought that it had been introduced to this region by the shipping of ornamental plants. But when doing molecular biology studies of both species, we realized that they are different.” Valdez-Mondragon described the species and noted the difference between L.tenochtitlan and L.misteca lies in the male spider’s palp or the organ that enables touch in arachnids. It is also noted that the female L.tenochtitlan has a distinct looking sexual organ compared to L.misteca. Valdez-Mondragon explains that at first glance, the two species of spiders can look identical, but L.tenochtitlan can be identified because of its dark brown color which is dull compared to the other species and on its back is a very visible violin pattern.

The story goes on to claim that “humans are naturally repulsed at the sight of “creepy crawlies” like spiders.”

The Science Times is not one of my approved popular science sites. Too much trash written by people who have only the most passing acquaintance with science.


  1. wzrd1 says

    Bleh, a hobo spider got lost, ended up in our bed, I rolled over it and got bit. Got a quarter sized depressed site of maybe a millimeter deep of necrosis, skin remained intact, healed and called it a day.
    That the spider wasn’t found in the bed, but across the room later, well it got to stay as an apology.

  2. Jazzlet says

    There is a story in Mercedes Lackey’s latest Valdemar anthology that features large (very large) spiders that are able to liquidise the contents of whole humans, and they are portrayed as goodies helping defeat the baddies. The particular spiders in this story also have knitted grments so they can survive winter without hibernating. They sound very cute.

  3. JustaTech says

    Jazzlet: I can’t decide if I need to go get this book from the library right this instant, or to never, ever read it.

    I’m trying to use PZ’s research to ease my very strong startle reaction to spiders, but some days it’s too much.
    But giant spiders in sweaters might be cute enough. Now I’m imagining Shelob “knit one, purl two, knit one … damnit, I dropped a stitch! Pesky hobbits!”

  4. christoph says

    A spider with a combination Latin/Nahuatl name-that is so cool! Cualli tocatl!
    (Learning the language, very slowly)