HE has been bitten twice while milking some 150 tarantulas in the name of research and still University of Queensland student Renan Santana loves his work and spiders.

The 31-year-old has spent the past three years trapping, grabbing and squeezing the furry Australian arachnids to determine if DNA can be sourced from their venom.

The results are not yet in but that doesn't worry Santana as he just adores tarantulas and still has a further three years of research to complete.

His passion for the critters started in his native Brazil when he used to drop by his grandmother's house.

"My grandmother used to live on the edge of the town, in the savannah area, and when I visited her during the summer they had tarantulas climbing the wall. I loved it," he told The Courier-Mail.

Renan Santana is a Queensland University PhD student and Queensland Museum researcher. Picture: The Queensland Museum
Renan Santana is a Queensland University PhD student and Queensland Museum researcher. Picture: The Queensland Museum

During one of the milking sessions, he was bitten by an Eastern tarantula which are normally found between Rockhampton and the tip of Cape York.

He said anyone who gets bitten by an Australian tarantula need not panic but they should expect to fell some pain and lingering discomfort.

"The venom of the group of the tarantulas I work with are pretty much harmless," he said.

"When you get bitten there's about 15 to 30 minutes of pain, not very intense … that's because they have a pair of 1cm fangs.

"After the pain you get pins and needles and it depends on the person, but I had it for about two hours but some people I have heard it can be five hours."

Renan Santana ‘milks’ a tarantula for its venom. Picture: Queensland Museum
Renan Santana ‘milks’ a tarantula for its venom. Picture: Queensland Museum

Santana says even if it's proven DNA cannot be extracted from the extracted venom, the past three years won't have been wasted.

Under the direction of the head of Queensland Museum's arachnology unit, Dr Robert Raven, and UQ staff Dr Bryan Fry, Professor Glenn King and Dr Lyn Cook, Santana has helped identify 15 new species of tarantula, seven of which are from Queensland.

He said they are expected to be named in the near future.

Queensland tarantulas are generally found between Rockhampton and Cape York. Picture: Queensland Museum
Queensland tarantulas are generally found between Rockhampton and Cape York. Picture: Queensland Museum

"They are such a difficult group to work with because they don't have a lot of characteristics.

"It's very cryptic because everything looks the same but they are different species and also not many researchers want to work with them.

"Usually we use the genitalia, especially from the males; to diagnose new species but all Australian tarantulas have the same kind of genitalia, so it's impossible."

The new species could be named after the location where they were found or the person who discovered them.

"Tarantulas that are found on Aboriginal land we try and give it an Aboriginal name, or a name based on its locality or even the characteristic of the spider. Sometimes we name it after those who found it," Santana said.

News Corp Australia


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