Overview

Brief Summary

The spider family Sparassidae (giant crab spiders or huntsman spiders) includes 1148 described species (Platnick 2014). Sparassidae includes the spiders with the largest leg-span (Heteropoda maxima, to 30 cm), a worldwide invasive (Heteropoda ventatoria), and the star of the major Hollywood movie Arachnophobia (Delena cancerides) (Agnarsson and Rayor 2013).

Reviewing then current knowledge of North American sparassids in 2005, Lew reported that nine species were known from North America north of Mexico. Of these nine North American sparassids, Olios included seven described native species in the western United States (and likely a number of undescribed species as well); the non-native Psudosparianthis cubana was known from Florida (Fox 1937 cited in Lew 2005); and the non-native pantropical Heteropoda venatoria, was reported to have established populations in Florida (this is the largest spider commonly found indoors in Florida, with a leg span up to 10 cm) and occasionally to be found synanthropically in other southern states and in California. (Lew 2005)  However, Rheims (2010a) revised the Nearctic (North America plus northern Mexico) sparassid fauna and concluded that in fact there are only four valid Olios species in this region, not seven, plus the former Olios mohavensis, which has been transferred to Macrinus (Rheims 2010b). Rheims concluded that the remaining Nearctic species currently included in Olios should be placed in new genera as well, but that these changes could be made until a more thorough revision of the Nearctic and Neotropical fauna, especially that of Mexico and Central America, has been undertaken.Although there have been few other regional reviosions of the Sparassidae, Agnarsson and Rayor (2013) undertook a phylogenetic analysis of a large endemic lineage of Australian sparassids, the Deleninae.

The family Sparassidae has also been known as Heteropodidae (a junior synonym), as well as Eusparassidae (the latter mainly by authors who consider Sparassus to be a junior synonym of Eusparassus). (Lew 2005 and references therein

Sparassids are cursorial and ambush predators and excellent climbers (easily clinging to ceilings in buildings). Their flattened bodies and laterigrade legs (i.e., legs that extend sidewise with the femora, especially, twisted so that the front surface faces up) allow them to fit into surprisingly small crevices given their often large bodies and long legs. They typically have eight eyes arranged in two rows (but see Jaeger 2012).  (Lew 2005 and references therein).

Henschel (2002) reported on the navigational abilities and mating system of Leucorchestris arenicola. Nørgaard et al. (2007, 2008, and 2012) have found that spiders of this species orient back to their burrows by learned local visual cues.

Delena cancerides exhibits social behavior (remarkable among known social spiders in that it does not spin a web) that has been the focus of a number of investigations (Rowell and Avilés 1995; Beavis et al. 2007; Yip et al. 2009; Yip and Rayor 2011; Auletta and Rayor 2011).

Lake (1986) reported a possible example of parthenogenesis in a sparassid, Isopoda insignis.

A study of bites by sparassid spiders in Australia found that their bites cause relatively minor symptoms in humans. Bites appear to be characterised by immediate and transient pain, associated with bleeding, puncture marks and local redness. The mechanism of effects appeared to be trauma rather than due to any venom. (Isbister and and Hirst 2003).

(Lew 2005; Btadley 2013)

  • Agnarsson, I. and L.S. Rayor. 2013. A molecular phylogeny of the Australian huntsman spiders (Sparassidae, Deleninae): Implications for taxonomy and social behaviour. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 69: 895-905.
  • Auletta, A. and L.S. Rayor. 2011. Preferential prey sharing among kin not found in the social huntsman spider Delena cancerides (Araneae: Sparassidae). Journal of Arachnology 39(2): 258-262.
  • Beavis, A.S., D.M. Rowell, and T. Evans. 2007. Cannibalism and kin recognition in Delena cancerides (Araneae: Sparassidae), a social huntsman spider. Journal of Zoology 271: 233-237.
  • Bradley, R.A. 2013. Common Spiders of North America. University of California Press, Berkeley.
  • Fox, I. 1937. The Nearctic spiders of the family Heteropodidae. Journal of the Washington Academy of Sciences 27(11): 461-474.
  • Henschel, J.R. 2002. Long-Distance Wandering and Mating by the Dancing White Lady Spider (Leucorchestris arenicola) (Araneae, Sparassidae) across Namib Dunes. Journal of Arachnology 30(2): 321-330.
  • Isbister, G.K. and D. Hirst. 2003. A prospective study of definite bites by spiders of the family Sparassidae (huntsmen spiders) with identification to species level. Toxicon 42: 163-171.
  • Jaeger, P. 2012. Revision of the genus Sinopoda Jager, 1999 in Laos with discovery of the first eyeless huntsman spider species (Sparassidae: Heteropodinae) Zootaxa 3415: 37-57.
  • Lake, D.C. 1986. Possible Parthenogenesis in the Huntsman Spider Isopoda insignis (Araneae, Sparassidae). Journal of Arachnology 14(1): 129.
  • Lew, S. 2005. Sparassidae. Pp. 224-225 in D. Ubick, P. Paquin, P.E. Cushing, and V. Roth (eds.) Spiders of North America: an Identification Manual. American Arachnological Society.
  • Nørgaard, T., Y.L. Gagnon, and E.J. Warrant. 2012. Nocturnal Homing: Learning Walks in a Wandering Spider? PLoS One 7(11): e49263. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0049263
  • Nørgaard, T., J.R. Henschel, and R. Wehner. 2007. Use of local cues in the night-time navigation of the wandering desert spider Leucorchestris arenicola (Araneae, Sparassidae). Journal of Comparative Physiology A 193: 217-222.
  • Nørgaard, T., D.-E. Nilsson, J.R. Henschel, et al. 2008. Vision in the nocturnal wandering spider Leucorchestris arenicola (Araneae: Sparassidae). The Journal of Experimental Biology 211: 816-823.
  • Platnick, N. I. 2014. The world spider catalog, version 14.5. American Museum of Natural History, online at http://research.amnh.org/entomology/spiders/catalog/index.html
  • Rheims, C.A. 2010a. On the native Nearctic species of the huntsman spider family Sparassidae Bertkau (Araneae). Journal of Arachnology 38: 530-537.
  • Rheims, C.A. 2010b. Notes on the Neotropical genus Macrinus Simon (Araneae, Sparassidae). Zoologia 27: 440-444.
  • Rowell, D.M. and L. Avilés. 1995, Sociality in a bark-dwelling huntsman spider from Australia, Delena cancerides Walckenaer (Araneae: Sparassidae). Insectes Sociaux 42: 287-302.
  • Yip, E.C. and L.S. Rayor. 2011. Do social spiders cooperate in predator defense and foraging without a web? Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 65:1935-1947.
  • Yip, E.C., S. Clarke, and L.S. Rayor. 2009. Aliens among us: nestmate recognition in the social huntsman spider, Delena cancerides. Insectes Sociaux 56: 223-231.
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Comprehensive Description

SPARASSIDAEAraneaeArachnidaArthropodaAnimalia

SPARASSIDAE

  • Deltshev, Christo, Komnenov, Marjan, Blagoev, Gergin, Georgiev, Teodor, Lazarov, Stoyan, Stojkoska, Emilija, Naumova, Maria (2013): Faunistic diversity of spiders (Araneae) in Galichitsa mountain (FYR Macedonia). Biodiversity Data Journal 1, 977: 977-977, URL:http://dx.doi.org/10.3897/BDJ.1.e977
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SparassidaeAnimalia

Sparassidae Bertkau, 1872

  • Candek, Klemen, Gregoric, Matjaz, Kostanjsek, Rok, Frick, Holger, Kropf, Christian, Kuntner, Matjaz, Miller, Jeremy A., Hoeksema, Bert W. (2013): Targeting a portion of central European spider diversity for permanent preservation. Biodiversity Data Journal 1, 980: 980-980, URL:http://dx.doi.org/10.3897/BDJ.1.e980
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Hoeksema, Bert W.

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Ecology

Associations

Known prey organisms

Sparassidae (Sparassidae 8 spp.) preys on:
Eleutherodactylus coqui
Eleutherodactylus richmondi
Eleutherodactylus portoricensis
Eleutherodactylus wightmanae
Eleutherodactylus eneidae
Eleutherodactylus hedricki
Schizomus
Collembola

Based on studies in:
Puerto Rico, El Verde (Rainforest)

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
  • Waide RB, Reagan WB (eds) (1996) The food web of a tropical rainforest. University of Chicago Press, Chicago
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Known predators

Sparassidae (Sparassidae 8 spp.) is prey of:
Eleutherodactylus coqui
Eleutherodactylus wightmanae
Anolis evermanni

Based on studies in:
Puerto Rico, El Verde (Rainforest)

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
  • Waide RB, Reagan WB (eds) (1996) The food web of a tropical rainforest. University of Chicago Press, Chicago
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD) Stats
                                        
Specimen Records:335Public Records:96
Specimens with Sequences:290Public Species:20
Specimens with Barcodes:285Public BINs:28
Species:35         
Species With Barcodes:31         
          
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Barcode data

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Locations of barcode samples

Collection Sites: world map showing specimen collection locations for Sparassidae

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Wikipedia

Huntsman spider

Sparassidae (formerly Heteropodidae) is a family of spiders known as huntsman spiders because of their speed and mode of hunting. They also are called giant crab spiders because of their size and appearance. Larger species sometimes are referred to as wood spiders, because of their preference for woody places (forest, mine shafts, woodpiles, wooden shacks). In southern Africa the genus Palystes are known as rain spiders or lizard-eating spiders.[1] Commonly they are confused with baboon spiders from the Mygalomorphae infraorder, which are not closely related.

More than a thousand Sparassidae species occur in most warm temperate to tropical regions of the world, including much of Australasia, Africa, Asia, the Mediterranean Basin, and the Americas.[2]

Several species of huntsman can use an unusual form of locomotion. Carparachne aureoflava from the Namib desert uses a cartwheeling motion, while Cebrennus rechenbergi uses a flic-flac motion.

Appearance[edit]

Palystes superciliosus, ventral aspect, showing aposematic colouration, plus typically masculine gracile build and clavate pedipalps armed with mating spurs
A huntsman spider consuming a small beetle
Adult huntsman spider on the underside of a log in Victoria, Australia

Sparassids are eight-eyed spiders. The eyes appear in two largely forward-facing rows of four on the anterior aspect of the prosoma. Many species grow very large – in Laos, Heteropoda maxima males attain a legspan of 250–300 mm (about 10–12 in). Persons unfamiliar with spider taxonomy commonly confuse large species with tarantulas, but huntsman spiders can generally be identified by their legs, which, rather than being jointed vertically relative to the body, are twisted in such a way that in some attitudes the legs extend forward in a crab-like fashion.

On their upper surfaces the main colours of huntsman spiders are inconspicuous shades of brown or grey, but many species have undersides more or less aposematically marked in black-and-white, with reddish patches over the mouthparts. Their legs bear fairly prominent spines, but the rest of their bodies are smoothly furry. They tend to live under rocks, bark and similar shelters, but human encounters are commonly in sheds, garages and other infrequently-disturbed places. The banded huntsman (Holconia) is large, grey to brown with striped bands on its legs. The Badge Huntsman (Neosparassus) is larger still, brown and hairy. The tropical or brown huntsman (Heteropoda) is also large and hairy, with mottled brown, white and black markings. The eyesight of these spiders is not nearly as good as that of the Salticidae (jumping spiders). Nevertheless, their vision is quite sufficient to detect approaching humans or other large animals from some distance.

Habitat and distribution[edit]

Members of the Sparassidae are common in Australia, but also in many warm-temperate-to-tropical parts of the world. They have been accidentally introduced to many parts of the world, including China, Philippines, Japan, India and southern parts of the United States, such as Florida and Puerto Rico. A species of huntsman can be found in Hawaii, where it is commonly known as a cane spider. In general they are likely to be found wherever ships may bring them as unintended passengers to areas that are not too cold for them to survive in the winter. In southern Africa they are commonly known as rain spiders because of their tendency to seek shelter before rain storms, often entering human habitations when doing so.[3][4]

As adults, huntsman spiders do not build webs, but hunt and forage for food: their diet consists primarily of insects and other invertebrates, and occasionally small skinks and geckos. They live in the crevices of tree bark, but will frequently wander into homes and vehicles. They are able to travel extremely fast, often using a springing jump while running, and walk on walls and even on ceilings. They also tend to exhibit a "cling" reflex if picked up, making them difficult to shake off and much more likely to bite. The females are fierce defenders of their egg sacs and young. They will generally make a threat display if provoked, and if the warning is ignored they may attack and bite. The egg sacs differ fairly widely among the various genera. For example, Palystes females generally suspend large purses in bushes. The sac is reinforced with dead leaves and similar material; if built indoors without disturbance, scraps of paper might be collected and used instead.

Australian Sparassid egg sac hatching

However, other genera build different sacs; Pseudomicrommata makes its nest in Eragrostis grass and may be ecologically confined to regions where the grass grows.[5] Females of some species carry sacs in their jaws.

Venom and aggression[edit]

Like most spiders apart from the Uloboridae and some Liphistiidae and Holarchaeidae,[6] Sparassidae use venom to immobilise prey and to assist in digestion. They have been known to inflict defensive bites, but are not widely regarded as dangerous to healthy humans.[7] Huntsman spiders are widely considered beneficial because they feed on insect pests such as cockroaches.

There have been reports of members of various genera such as Palystes,[8] Neosparassus (formerly called Olios) and several others, inflicting bites. The effects vary, including local swelling and pain, sometimes with nausea, headache, vomiting, irregular pulse rate, and heart palpitations, indicating some systemic neurological effects, especially when the bites were severe or repeated. However, the formal study of spider bites is fraught with complications, including unpredictable infections, dry bites, shock, and nocebo effects. An investigation into spider bites in Australia, in which Sparassidae figured prominently, did not note any severe or unusual symptoms resulting from confirmed bites from some of the most notorious genera, particularly Neosparassus.

It is not always clear what provokes Sparassidae to bite people, but it is known that female members of this family will aggressively defend their egg sacs and young against perceived threats. The frequency of bites on various body parts suggests that by far the most are accidental or incidental, resulting from inadvertent handling.[2] Bites from Sparassids usually do not require hospital treatment. In particular no necrosis was reported in the works cited here.

Sound production in mating rituals[edit]

Males of Heteropoda venatoria, one of the huntsman spiders that seems to easily find its way around the world, have recently been found to deliberately make a substrate-borne sound when they detect a chemical (pheromone) left by a nearby female of their species. The males anchor themselves firmly to the surface onto which they have crawled and then use their legs to transmit vibrations from their bodies to the surface. Most of the sound emitted is produced by strong vibrations of the abdomen. The characteristic frequency of vibration and the pattern of bursts of sound identify them to females of their species, who will approach if they are interested in mating.[9]

List of genera[edit]

Isopeda villosa discarding its old exoskeleton

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Norman Larsen. "Palystes (rain spiders, lizard-eating spiders)". Iziko Museums of Cape Town. Biodiversity Explorer. Retrieved 2 May 2010. 
  2. ^ a b Geoffrey K. Isbister & David Hirst (2003). "A prospective study of definite bites by spiders of the family Sparassidae (huntsmen spiders) with identification to species level". Toxicon 42 (2): 163–171. doi:10.1016/S0041-0101(03)00129-6. PMID 12906887. 
  3. ^ Jon Fouskaris. "The African Huntsman Spider". CentralPets.com. Retrieved February 8, 2008. 
  4. ^ P. M. C. Croeser (1996). "A revision of the African huntsman spider genus Palystes L. Koch, 1875 (Araneae: Heteropodidae)". Annals of the Natal Museum 37: 1–122. 
  5. ^ Filmer, Martin (1997). Southern African Spiders. City: BHB International / Struik. ISBN 1-86825-188-8. 
  6. ^ Rainer Foelix and Bruno Erb, Mesothelae have venom glands. Journal of Arachnology 38(3):596-598. 2010 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1636/B10-30.1
  7. ^ S. H. Skaife (1963). A Naturalist Remembers. Longmans South Africa. 
  8. ^ D'Ewes, Dudley; Wayward naturalist, Chapter 12; Howard Timmins, Cape Town, 1967
  9. ^ Jerome S. Rovner (1980). "Vibration in Heteropoda venatoria (Sparassidae): a third method of sound production in spiders" (PDF). Journal of Arachnology 8 (2): 193–200. 
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