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South Queensland tarantula

Fact Box
Selenocosmia stirlingi (RM)
(See notes below)
Body length:
female: about 45 mm
male: about 36 mm
In a deep burrow in shaded (to reduce the risk of desiccation) open bush or grasslands. The burrow entrance is up to 25 mm across and may have a thin veil of webbing around it and across its entrance but no door
The venom of this spider may be significantly toxic to humans and males are prone to wander during the mating season, but most tarantula species move slowly and show only sham aggression
Selenocosmia stirlingi
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Underside of spider
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The male?
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Another specimen
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A related species
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Burrow entrance
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Another burrow

In recent years there has been debate as to the appropriate generic name for the species shown on this page and we are presently in a state of considerable confusion. The Queensland Museum is now suggesting that there are no genuine Selenocosmia species in Australia, this genus being restricted to parts of Asia. Instead, some Selenocosmia species are being moved back to the Phlogius generic name they were originally given more than a century ago. The Queensland Museum website also states that those tarantulas that are found in dry open forests or semi-arid areas of Queensland and that have Leg I no thicker than Leg IV belong to the Selenotholus group. This should include the spider shown above. However, Platnick in his World Spiders Lists has not yet accepted these changes and has retained the Selenocosmia stirlingi name. For this reason, the spider presented on this page will continue to be shown as Selenocosmia stirlingi until this issue has been resolved.

This species and some other Australian tarantulas are also called barking or the bird-eating spider, neither of which is really appropriate. Another name that is sometimes applied to them is 'whistling' spider because they have a stridulating organ associated with the mouth parts and this can produce a faint whistling sound.

Distinguishing features of Selenocosmia stirlingi are the hirsute (hairy) legs, the presence of brushes on the ends of the legs, and the relatively long spinnerets. Theraphosids are the only true tarantulas, but some people erroneously call huntsmen and wolf spiders tarantulas although these are very different in appearance and in family relationships.

Selenocosmia stirlingi is not found below the Toowoomba range or the South-east Queensland coastal districts but can be found in drier districts to the west and north of Toowoomba and much further into central Australia.

Spider(s) with a very similar appearance: Only other theraphosids such as Selenocosmia crassipes.

Email Ron Atkinson for more information.    Last updated 11 May 2012.