The spider found in a shipment of bananas from Honduras at Whole Foods was taken Sunday to the University of Tulsa, where animal facilities manager Terry Childs identified it as a Brazilian wandering spider, considered one of the most lethal in the world.
But Barry Downer, the curator of aquariums and herpetology at the Tulsa Zoo, said video and photos he had seen of the spider led him to believe that it was a Huntsman spider, which is harmless to humans.
“There’s pretty definitive evidence it has been misidentified,” Downer said.
Childs said Wednesday night that he had destroyed the spider at the urging of a university administrator because of safety concerns.
Downer said the spider should have been preserved for study, but he was told that the body would not be made available.
“It doesn’t make any sense to me why it wouldn’t be saved,” he said.
A school spokesman said Thursday that the university is looking into how and why the spider was destroyed.
Richard Grantham, director of the plant disease and insect diagnostics lab at Oklahoma State University, also said the spider should not have been destroyed.
After looking at pictures of the spider, he said he does not believe it to be a Brazilian wandering spider, but he said it should have been preserved anyway.
“We preserve it,” Grantham said. “We don’t destroy it.”
A similar incident happened at a Stillwater grocery store in 2003, Grantham said.
He kept the spider in a cage at the university lab until it died, and he still has the preserved body, he said.
Downer and Grantham also disputed Childs’ characterization of the danger of a Brazilian wandering spider.
Death from the spider’s bite is rare, and only victims with compromised immune systems, such as babies or older people, would be at risk, they said.