Mysterious thumb-sized spiders rampage through northeast India leaving two dead and several others with painfully swollen bites.
“It looks like a new species. We haven’t been able to identify it,” said ecologist L.R. Saikia of India’s Dibrugarh University in the Associated Press.
Not knowing the spiders' species means health workers can’t use antivenin. For lack of other medical treatments, victims have been slicing open the swollen wounds to drain them. Health authorities fear the cure may be worse than the bite and suggest that the two deaths may have resulted from the draining treatment. Seven other bite victims were treated with antibiotics after the draining procedure and did not die.
For a month, the spider menace has plagued a remote area of the Tinsukia district in Assam state, where approximately 100,000 people live by farming rice. The spiders may have come from the wilderness north of the Brahmaputra River, but have now been spotted south of the river.
As humans expand into the last vestiges of virgin nature, new species are often wiped out before they are even cataloged by scientists. It looks like this Indian spider would not go quietly into oblivion.
Adult male Phidippus johnsoni jumping spider in defensive pose with fangs extended. This is not the species responsible for the bites in India which can be seen here. (Kaldari, Wikimedia Commons)