|Male Missulena occatoria|
Missulena is a genus of spiders in the mygalomorph family Actinopodidae, sometimes called mouse spiders. As of 2016[update] there are 17 known species in this genus, all but one of which are indigenous to Australia. One species, M. tussulena, is found in Chile. The name derives from an old belief, now known to be false, that the spiders dig deep burrows similar to those of mice.
There is evidence that the bite of a mouse spider is potentially as serious as that of an Australasian funnel-web spider; however, recorded bites by this spider are rare, despite the abundance of some species amid human habitation. Funnel-web antivenom has been found to be an effective treatment for serious bites.
Another spider, Scotophaeus blackwalli, shares the common name "mouse spider", but it is in a different family than Missulena and is not a mygalomorph. Scotophaeus is much smaller, looks very different, and is not considered dangerous.
Mouse spiders are medium-to-large spiders which range in length from 1 cm to 3 cm. Their carapace is glossy, and they have high, broad heads, with eyes spread out across the front of the head. They have short spinnerets, located in the rear of the abdomen. Mouse spiders exhibit sexual dimorphism, with female spiders being all black; and male spiders having species-specific colouration. The male eastern mouse spider (M. bradleyi) has a bluish patch, and the male red-headed mouse spider (M. occatoria) is brownish or blue-black in color, with bright red-tinged jaws.
The mouse spiders have a Gondwanan distribution, with one species found in Chile and the rest distributed throughout Australia, while the nearest related genera occur in South America. Similar to trapdoor spiders, the mouse spider lives in burrows covered with trapdoors, which can extend to nearly 30 cm (1 foot) in depth. Female mouse spiders generally remain in their burrows; the males will wander in search of mates.
The bites of several species of mouse spider in Australia have been found to produce serious symptoms, similar to the Australian funnel-web spider. However, serious envenomations are relatively rare; most mouse spider bites documented in the medical literature did not require use of antivenom or involve serious symptoms. The venom of the Eastern mouse spider (M. bradleyi) was found to have toxins similar to the robustoxin found in funnel-web venom; and funnel-web antivenom has been found to be effective in treating severe mouse spider bites. Unlike the funnel-web, however, the mouse spider is far less aggressive towards humans, and may often give "dry" bites.
- Missulena bradleyi Rainbow, 1914 (eastern mouse spider) – New South Wales
- Missulena dipsaca Faulder, 1995 – Australia
- Missulena faulderi Harms & Framenau, 2013 – Western Australia
- Missulena granulosa (O. Pickard-Cambridge, 1869) – Western Australia
- Missulena hoggi Womersley, 1943 – Western Australia
- Missulena insignis (O. Pickard-Cambridge, 1877) (lesser redheaded mouse spider) – Australia
- Missulena langlandsi Harms & Framenau, 2013 – Western Australia
- Missulena leniae Miglio et al., 2014 – Western Australia
- Missulena mainae Miglio et al., 2014 – Western Australia
- Missulena melissae Miglio et al., 2014 – Western Australia
- Missulena occatoria Walckenaer, 1805 (type species) (redheaded mouse spider) – Southern Australia
- Missulena pinguipes Miglio et al., 2014 – Western Australia
- Missulena pruinosa Levitt-Gregg, 1966 – Western Australia, Northern Territory
- Missulena reflexa Rainbow & Pulleine, 1918 – South Australia
- Missulena rutraspina Faulder, 1995 – Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria
- Missulena torbayensis Main, 1996 – Western Australia
- Missulena tussulena Goloboff, 1994 – Chile
- "Gen. Missulena Walckenaer, 1805", World Spider Catalog, Natural History Museum Bern, retrieved 2016-03-15
- "Family: Actinopodidae Simon, 1892", World Spider Catalog, Natural History Museum Bern, retrieved 2016-06-28
- Goloboff, P.A. (1994), Migoidea de Chile, nuevas o poco conocidas (Araneae: Mygalomorphae). Revista de la Sociedad Entomológica Argentina (in Spanish), 53, pp. 65–74
- Mouse Spiders, Sciencentre, retrieved 2016-06-28
- Mouse Spiders, Australian Museum, retrieved 2016-06-28
- Womersley, H. (1943), "A revision of the spiders of the genus Missulena Walckenaer 1805", Records of the South Australian Museum, 7: 251–265