The App That Can Save Your Life From Deadly Snakes and Spiders

By Doug Williams
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Credit: Critterpedia
Credit: Critterpedia
 
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Among the thousands of apps distributed by app stores, a most welcome app is soon to be released.   Nic and Murray Scarce of Queensland and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization’s Data61 department, Australia’s national science agency, are in the testing phase of a new app that identifies dangerous snakes and spiders common to Australia.

 

Critterpedia, as it is called, allows one to take a picture of the offending critter and the app will identify it.  Using a learning search engine, the more animals that users feed into the app more information will be available.

The app was the idea of the Scarce’s after Nic’s mother came from England for a visit.  According to Scarce on euronews.com, “During one of her trips to Australia, my mother-in-law acted as a magnet for all of our country’s big-name snakes, spiders and insects.

 

The questions relating to their identification and danger levels were relentless, and the fact that we didn’t have all the answers simply exacerbated the situation.”

While many spiders and snakes look alike the problem has been addressed by  Dr Matt Adcock, a Data61 researcher who remarked,  “We’ve started off with an enormous amount of images sourced from zoological experts collaborating with Critterpedia, and have developed a suite of tools to help semi-automatically label these images, verify the information and cross check with other data sources.”

Scarce wants people to learn about wildlife and how to live in harmony with them rather than letting fear overcome them leading to a tragic error or death.    Critterpedia.com is asking people to sign up for the app now to enhance their release date with plenty of photos to be identified.

Female Sydney funnel-web Spider. Tirin – CC BY-SA 3.0
Female Sydney funnel-web Spider. Tirin – CC BY-SA 3.0

Before Critterpedia, Murray had over twenty years experience within the logistics industry, including operational experience in Aerospace Defense and Nic had about twenty five years’ experience in international product development and marketing roles managing multi-million dollar projects.

Australia has nearly three thousand spider species.  Some of the more dangerous types are the Sydney Funnel Web Spider which has the most lethal venom of any spider in the world.  It can become aggressive if disturbed and sometimes looks for a mate in people’s homes.

Redback spiders, also highly venomous, hide in sheltered places such as garden sheds and mailboxes, and when they bite it is usually the female similar to Black Widow spiders to which they are distantly related.

A female redback spider. Toby Hudson – CC BY-SA 3.0
A female redback spider. Toby Hudson – CC BY-SA 3.0

Mouse spiders are usually found near water and do their hunting during the day.  The Black House spider lives in window frames, sheds and gutters.

They prefer to eat moths and mosquitos that are drawn to artificial light. Wolf spiders, found everywhere in the world are only slightly venomous and like to hide in lawn debris and leaf piles.

They do not spin webs but pounce on their prey.  The female carries the egg sack around with her and the babies cling to mom until they are capable of living on their own.

Australia has around one hundred and seventy types of snakes that are highly toxic including the Eastern Brown snake which is fast moving, grumpy and aggressive.

A bite can stop the blood from clotting and cause paralysis. Unfortunately, they live in populated areas, especially rural areas where they can hunt for mice.  The Western Brown snake is related to the Eastern Brown snake but is less aggressive.

Western Brown snake. Andy-CC BY-SA 2.0
Western Brown snake. Andy-CC BY-SA 2.0

Although the venom is not as toxic, Eastern Browns release three times as much venom.  The Mainland Tiger snake lives in very populated areas and farms and their bites are fatal without intervention.  The Inland Taipan snakes are rare but hide in rocky places and in burrows.

Their venom can kill a human adult within forty five minutes.  The Coastal Taipan can be found in sugarcane fields among other places and can kill within thirty minutes attacking the nervous system and the blood with nausea, convulsions, internal bleeding, devastation of the muscles and kidney damage.

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Mulga snakes are very large and heavy and put out the most venom of any other snake.  At times they are docile but when agitated they latch on and chew delivering poison that affects blood cells, the muscles and nerves.

 
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