Spider probably harmless, zoo curator says
BY SHANNON MUCHMORE World Staff Writer
Friday, March 20, 2009
3/20/09 at 3:09 AM
A spider that was found in a Tulsa grocery store and originally was thought to be deadly was probably of a harmless species, a curator at the Tulsa Zoo said Thursday.
The spider was taken Sunday to the University of Tulsa, where animal facilities manager Terry Childs identified it as a Brazilian wandering spider, considered one of the most lethal in the world.
After the spider gained media attention Wednesday, Barry Downer, the curator of aquariums and herpetology at the Tulsa Zoo, said video and photos he had seen of the spider led him to believe that it was a Huntsman spider, which is harmless to humans.
"There's pretty definitive evidence it has been misidentified," Downer said.
Childs said Wednesday night that he had destroyed the spider at the urging of a TU administrator because of safety concerns.
Downer said the spider should have been preserved for study, but he was told that the body would not be made available.
"It doesn't make any sense to me why it wouldn't be saved," he said.
A TU spokesman said Thursday that the university is looking into how and why the spider was destroyed.
Late Thursday, officials said they were not ready to comment.
The spider was found in a shipment of bananas at Whole Foods, 1401 E. 41st St.
Childs praised the store's employees for their handling of the situation and said such an incident can happen at any store.
Richard Grantham, director of the plant disease and insect diagnostics lab at Oklahoma State University, said the spider should not have been destroyed.
After looking at pictures of the spider, he said he does not believe it to be a Brazilian wandering spider, but he said it should have been preserved, regardless.
"We preserve it," he said. "We don't destroy it."
A similar incident happened at a Stillwater grocery store in 2003, Grantham said.
He kept the spider in a cage at the OSU lab until it died, and he still has the preserved body, he said.
Downer and Grantham also disputed Childs' characterization of the danger of a Brazilian wandering spider.
Death from the spider's bite is rare, and only victims with compromised immune systems, such as babies or older people, would be at risk, they said.
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A female Huntsman spider. Courtesy
A Brazilian wandering spider. Courtesy