Hear about the Australian man who had a spider crawl into his body through his appendix scar and all the way up to his sternum? As much as our collective morbid curiosity kind of wants it to be true, scientists have come to lend some healthy perspective to the situation.
Yesterday it was reported in The Age that an Australian man had experienced something rather strange and all kinds of horrifying during a trip to Bali. After feeling a "searing sensation" around his abdomen near his old appendix scar, Dylan Thomas from Bunbury in Western Australia says he found out that a spider had crawled into his body through his scar and had made its way right up to his sternum.
"It wasn't really a tickling sensation, obviously once the venom started to affect my skin it was a really burning sensation like a searing feeling," he told Radio 6PR.
After a day or two of taking antihistamines, Thomas was feeling worse, and took himself to the hospital. He says the doctors finally found the cause of his discomfort. "Well after running tests and putting things inside my stomach they finally found out it was a tropical spider that's been living inside of me for the last three days, managed to get it out luckily," he told his friends on Facebook, according to Aleisha Orr at The Age.
It sounds pretty far-fetched, and Thomas could well be telling the truth as it was relayed to him at the hospital, but Lauren Davis from io9 spoke to some scientists to get some much-needed perspective.
"I think this is extremely suspect, unusual, and likely not possible," arachnid expert Christopher Buddle from McGill University's Department of Natural Resource Sciences told Davis. "Simply put: it is not plausible and I can think of no valid reason why a spider might 'crawl beneath skin through a scar'. The claim that it was 'feeding and moving up through the scar tissue' defies logic and defies what we know about the biology of spiders. I am also sceptical because the 'evidence' (the spider itself) is not presented."
The best explanation the scientists Davis spoke to could come up with was that the doctors in Bali pulled something out of Thomas's body, but it was far more likely to be a tick or a mite. Just not a spider.
"I have never heard of any spider to crawl or exist under the skin or integument of any other creature (there are no parasites amongst spiders)," Marie Herberstein, who is the Head of the Department of Biological Sciences at Macquarie University in Australia, told Davis. But she was careful to not completely rule out the possibility. She mentions that mites are also eight-legged, so perhaps it was just a really bit mite?
Head to io9 to read the rest of Lauren Davis's research into this odd story. Other than that, all we can do now is wait for the specimen - which is reportedly sitting in a jar somewhere - to surface…