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We’re Thrilled To Inform You That This Terrifying Viral Facebook Post Is Totally Fake

author

Robin Andrews

Science & Policy Writer

clockAug 28 2018, 17:26 UTC

Meet the (male) woodlouse spider. Nasty bite, but otherwise entirely harmless. Hans Hillewaert/Wikimedia Commons; CC BY-SA 4.0

Were you one of the people that were terrorized by the news that a deadly spider was spreading throughout the US – one that had already killed five upstanding American citizens, and was set to kill again? If so, then don’t worry: as pointed out by Snopes.com, it’s an entirely false claim.

The rumor originated with a Facebook post that took the form of the oft-used “dangerous animal alert” theme, one that causes it to spread fairly rapidly by well-meaning but not the most discerning of social media users.

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The post, naturally in ALL CAPS, doesn’t give a source for the information that it presents, which should immediately raise a red flag. It was also shared by someone with a long history of disseminating misleading, fearmongering posts like this.

The spider that the photographs depict is the woodlouse spider, Dysdera crocata, native to the Mediterranean, but it can be found in multiple locales throughout the globe, including both the US and the UK. It certainly looks a little unnerving, featuring its characteristic red-brown carapace, a pink-gray abdomen, and some rather large jaws, technically known as chelicera.

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It’s normally found outdoors, hiding under something or the other, but it can occasionally sneak inside your house. According to the British Arachnological Society, it doesn’t build a web, but it does protect itself with a silken shell. It hunts freely, relying on speed and stealth to capture its prey – woodlice, pill bugs, sow bugs, and so on.

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The bite, thanks to said jaws, can be quite painful to a human. Rather importantly though, it isn’t dangerous.

There’s no strong evidence to suggest that it will cause any lasting or serious harm to a person, whether that’s damage to the neurological system or any individual cells. Snopes notes that multiple studies and expert societies have found that its bite is nothing more than innocuous.

Interestingly enough, studies have examined the effects of climate change on the distribution of various animals, such as reptiles and arthropods, throughout the world, including in North America. A recent paper outlined how the increasingly warm higher latitudes will mean several venomous species will increasingly move north.

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Per Popular Science, these include fire ants, Africanized bees, and brown recluse spiders. Unlike the woodlouse spider, these beasties’ venomous bites can in fact be harmful, as their toxic nature destroys tissue and leave the wound open to opportunistic bacterial, viral, or fungal infections. Saying that, the stories of such bites are often overexaggerated.

Experts stress that there won’t be a sudden explosion of these critters, but knowing what zoological changes will transpire is clearly quite important. At the same time, sensationalism and bullshit certainly don’t help, so it’s good to point out these examples out whenever possible.

[H/T: Gizmodo]


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