Mygalomorph spiders are more commonly known as trapdoor spiders, tarantulas and funnel web spiders. They are heavy set spiders, with downward facing fangs that they use to envenomate their prey. While they spin silk to line their burrows, they do not build elaborate capture webs like other groups of spiders. They are sensitive to desiccation and so many species live underground in burrows, or in wetter parts of the continent.
Australia’s most famous mygalomorph, the Sydney funnel-web spider (Atrax robustus) is not found in Western Australia, and many of WA’s less dangerous mygalomorphs are mistaken for this dangerous species.
Most mygalomorph spiders are distinguished from each other by the shape and size of the palps, the sexual organs male use to inseminate females during mating. For Conothele, there are also other characters based on the placement of the eyes, the shape of the carapace and the spination of the hairs on the abdomen.
Females are rarely distinguishable from each other, but can often be assigned to a genus.
Conothele are common across the tropical and arid-zones of Australia, however little work has been done to fully uncover their total diversity here. Molecular work based on CO1 has recovered numerous putative species in the Pilbara, and a more comprehensive study of the WA Museum collections is revealing many species (>50), with high rates of small-range endemism.
In addition to this previously unknown diversity, the biogeographic history of the genus is complex, with the species found in the Pilbara not being monophyletic (i.e., all being each other's closest relatives). Rather, the Pilbara seems to be inhabited by groups of species that have arrived from the north and south, in independent waves. In addition, two eco-morphs exist, a tree-dwelling species, found in tropical parts of the continent, and a burrow-dwelling species, common across the arid zone. Fully resolving the evolutionary history of this genus is an ongoing project.
Very little is known about the behaviour of Conothele in Australia.
Females reside in a single burrow for their entire life after hatching and leaving their natal burrow. In this burrow they store food, lay eggs and mate.
Males similarly reside in a single burrow for their entire lives but upon becoming sexually mature, they disperse from their home and seek out adult females in their burrows. Males do not return home but eventually die after mating or while seeking mates.
It is believed that individuals reside in a single burrow and if that burrow is disturbed or damaged, that they cannot rebuild a new burrow.
Method of reproduction
Lives in burrows in compacted soils.
Kakadu National Park, Northern Territory.
|Conservation Assessment:||Least Concern|
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Western Australian Museum Collections https://museum.wa.gov.au/online-collections/names/Conothele-MYG564
Accessed 14 Aug 2020
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