Mouse Spiders: How to Identify

Missulena, a genus of mygalomorph spiders belonging to the family Actinopodidae, is commonly known as mouse spiders due to an erroneous idea that these arachnids dig burrows resembling those of mice. Species in this genus can be found mainly in Australia and Chile, with M. tussulena being exclusive to Chile.

Mouse spiders.
Macro photo of a Mouse Spider with bright red fangs sits on a contrasting green leaf. Photo credit: North

Mouse spiders: Description

Mouse spiders can range from 0.4 to 1.2 inches, boasting a glossy carapace and wide and high heads that feature eyes spread across the front of their head and short spinnerets in the rear abdomen region. They primarily prey on insects but eat other tiny animals as they present themselves. The main predators of mouse spiders include wasps, centipedes, and scorpions.

Mouse Spiders feature extraordinary sexual dimorphism. While female specimens are entirely black, males display a range of colors depending on the species; male Eastern Mouse Spider (M. bradleyi), for example, boast blue patches, and Red-headed Mouse (M. occatoria) possess brownish or dark-blue bodies with vibrant red mandibles!

These spiders share certain similarities with the Mygalomorphae infraorder. However, they can be easily identified due to their large pair of chelicerae and two small eyes in the center with three additional ones at their sides- a setup that is not seen in other trapdoor spider species. It could get challenging distinguishing females from males; while females are entirely black, males may have brighter shades of blue or red on their abdomen, carapace, chelicerae, or even both!

Mouse spiders: Habitat and range.

The Gondwanan distribution of these spiders is unique, with one species found in Chile and the rest stretching across Australia. These arachnids reside in underground burrows that can reach depths up to 12 inches, where females often remain stationary while males stray from their dwellings in search of a partner.

Are mouse spiders dangerous?

Although the bites from Mouse spiders can be pretty painful, serious envenomations are not usually encountered. What has been documented in medical literature indicates that no antivenom treatment or severe symptoms were necessary for individuals who experienced a mouse spider bite – which could potentially be as powerful as an Australian funnel-web spider bite. Even though some species of mouse spiders thrive near human habitation, recorded cases of bites remain relatively rare.

With their closely resembling appearances, mouse spiders’ bites should first be treated as if they were an Australian funnel-web spider bite. Research has found that the antivenom for the latter successfully treats any severe repercussions of a mouse spider bite. However, unlike its counterpart, these arachnids are usually calmer and may even puncture without releasing venom.

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Dennis V. Gilmore Jr.

Dennis V. Gilmore Jr. is a former Marine Sergeant and the author of several books, including two on night hunting coyotes and red and gray fox. He has written several hundred articles on predator hunting for

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