Tarantula Barb Jabs Owner in the Eye

UK man's condition baffles ophthalmologists
By Marie Morris,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 1, 2010 1:30 PM CST
Tarantula Barb Jabs Owner in the Eye
A girl looks at a tarantula spider (Brachypelma Smithi) behind a window during a live exotic animal exhibition in Sofia, Bulgaria, May, 19, 2007.   (AP Photo/Petar Petrov)

(Newser) – A 29-year-old British man has new respect for his pet tarantula after the spider sprayed tiny barbed hairs into his face and some of the microscopic weapons penetrated his eye. The man wasn't responding to treatment for conjunctivitis—which made sense after an ophthalmologist cranked up the magnification to examine him. "He said, 'I think this is really strange,'" a fellow physician tells ABC News. "'I see really small hairs in your eye. I don't know what it is.'"

"It" was an urticating hair, a defense mechanism unique to tarantulas and some caterpillars. The hairs "are basically akin to little pieces of fiberglass," says a tarantula expert. Adds an American ophthamologist: "We can see these fine filaments in the cornea, so if you've seen this before, or heard of it, you can treat it. But most eye care specialists aren't aware of this condition."
(Read more tarantula stories.)

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