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Fish & Wildlife | Ecotrope

Video: Spider named for venom-milking professor

Greta Binford with six eyed sand spider.

Greta Binford with six eyed sand spider.

If there’s a common thread linking the poisonous spiders of the world, that web likely stretches through the Portland lab of Greta Binford. She’s a star in the arachnosphere. Binford milks the venom from spiders and has a collection of 600 of the world’s most poisonous arachnids living in her lab at Lewis & Clark College.

Now her name will live forever, attached to a very small, newly discovered spider in subtropical rain forests in New South Wales, Australia. Arachnologists Michael Rix and Mark Harvey recently worked with Binford and offered to name one of a batch of newly discovered spiders after her.

Binford told her hometown newspaper they offered her a choice of names. “He asked me if I ever had anything named after me would I like it to be Gretae or Binfordae,” she said. “I said Bindfordae, of course, that way my entire family could share the honor. I hope Dad is as excited about this as I am. To know that you will be associated with something permanent is really something I can’t describe.”

Austrarchaea binfordae it is. Binford estimates there could be more than 50,000 types of spiders yet to be named.

Austrarchaea mainae, a relative of Austrarchaea binfordae.

Austrarchaea mainae, a relative of Austrarchaea binfordae.

This one is small and aggressive. The 2 millimeter creature eats other spiders. Binford tell us, “They are tiny little things, but I, of course, think they’re cute!”

She’s never seen her namesake spider in person but she’s been analyzing the venom from some of its closest relatives from Australia.

This is the latest in a string of kudos for Binford. She received a National Science Foundation grant this year to study poisonous spiders in the Caribbean, has been featured in a children’s book, “Silk and Venom,” and been featured on Nova on PBS and on OPB’s Oregon Field Guide.


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