| Actinopodidae, Arachnid, Australian funnel‑web spider, Sydney funnel‑web spider, Wandering spider|
Missulena is a genus of spiders in the mygalomorph family Actinopodidae, sometimes called mouse spiders. As of 2016 there are 17 known species in this genus, all but one of which are indigenous to Australia. One species, M. tussulena, is found in Chile. The name derives from an old belief, now known to be false, that the spiders dig deep burrows similar to those of mice.
There is evidence that the bite of a mouse spider is potentially as serious as that of an Australasian funnel-web spider; however, recorded envenomings by this spider are rare. Funnel-web antivenom has been found to be an effective treatment for serious bites.
Another spider, Scotophaeus blackwalli, shares the nickname "mouse spider", but does not belong to the genus Missulena and is not considered dangerous.
Mouse spiders are medium-to-large spiders which range in length from 1 cm to 3 cm. Their carapace is glossy, and they have high, broad heads, with eyes spread out across the front of the head. They have short spinnerets, located in the rear of the abdomen. Mouse spiders exhibit sexual dimorphism, with female spiders being all black; and male spiders having species-specific colouration. The male eastern mouse spider (M. bradleyi) has a bluish patch, and the male red-headed mouse spider (M. occatoria) is brownish or blue-black in color, with bright red-tinged jaws.
Mouse spiders prey mainly on insects, though they may consume other small animals as opportunity presents. The primary predators of the mouse spider include wasps, bandicoots, centipedes, and scorpions.
The mouse spiders range throughout Australia, with different species being found in different states there. One species is found in Chile, and the nearest related genera of Missulena also occur in South America. This is because they are in place of the Gondwanan fauna. Similar to trapdoor spiders, the mouse spider lives in burrows covered with trapdoors, which can extend to nearly 30 cm (1 foot) in depth. Female mouse spiders generally remain in their burrows; the males will wander in search of mates.
The bites of several species of mouse spider in Australia have been found to produce serious symptoms, similar to the Australasian funnel-web spider. However, serious envenomings are relatively rare; most mouse spider bites documented in the medical literature did not require use of antivenom or involve serious symptoms. The venom of the Eastern mouse spider (M. bradleyi) was found to have toxins similar to the robustoxin found in funnel-web venom; and funnel-web antivenom has been found to be effective in treating severe mouse spider bites. Unlike the funnel-web, however, the mouse spider is far less aggressive towards humans, and may often give "dry" bites.
As of March 2016, the World Spider Catalog accepted the following species:Missulena bradleyi Rainbow, 1914 (Eastern mouse spider) – New South Wales
Missulena dipsaca Faulder, 1995 – Australia
Missulena faulderi Harms & Framenau, 2013 – Western Australia
Missulena granulosa (O. Pickard-Cambridge, 1869) – Western Australia
Missulena hoggi Womersley, 1943 – Western Australia
Missulena insignis (O. Pickard-Cambridge, 1877) (Redheaded mouse spider) – Australia
Missulena langlandsi Harms & Framenau, 2013 – Western Australia
Missulena leniae Miglio et al., 2014 – Western Australia
Missulena mainae Miglio et al., 2014 – Western Australia
Missulena melissae Miglio et al., 2014 – Western Australia
Missulena occatoria Walckenaer, 1805 (type species), (Mouse spider) – Southern Australia
Missulena pinguipes Miglio et al., 2014 – Western Australia
Missulena pruinosa Levitt-Gregg, 1966 – Western Australia, Northern Territory
Missulena reflexa Rainbow & Pulleine, 1918 – South Australia
Missulena rutraspina Faulder, 1995 – Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria
Missulena torbayensis Main, 1996 – Western Australia
Missulena tussulena Goloboff, 1994 – Chile