The Find-a-Spider Guide

The Find-a-Spider Guide    The Find-a-Spider Guide    The Find-a-Spider Guide    The Find-a-Spider Guide

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The Find-a-spider Guide

Created by Dr Ron Atkinson
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Welcome to the Find-a-spider guide!

Have you found a spider but don't know what it is or whether or not it is dangerous to humans and domesticated animals? If so, this website may help you to identify it on the basis of what it looks like, how big it is, and where you found it. Current knowledge about the toxicity of each spider and some information relating to its natural history are also included wherever possible.

PLEASE NOTE: This website primarily contains information about spiders found in Queensland and Northern NSW but many of the species included have a much wider distribution throughout Australia and a few are also found in other countries. However, if you have a spider that was found elsewhere in the world this site could still be of some value to you since most Australian spiders are related to, and bear a close resemblance to, species that are found on other continents so the information presented here may help you track down the kind of spider you are dealing with even though that species is not actually included on this website.

But what if you have heard about a particular Australian spider but don't know what it looks like or need to find out more about it? Well, this site also allows you to search for it using either its common name or its scientific name. There are also pages on such things as the venoms of the more hazardous spiders found in Australia, how spiders move, eat and reproduce, and some information about spider silk.

For most people the best way to use this website probably is to first read the frequently-asked questions (FAQ) section and the associated information pages then click on the Find-a-spider tab at the top of each page. From there you can search for a particular spider on the basis of its common and scientific names, the location/habitat in which it normally lives, the family it belongs to, and the burrow, web or egg sac it builds. If you find these methods difficult to use you can simply go to a page that offers you galleries of spider photos that will in turn direct you to pages on particular spider species. In addition, the information section of this website has a page on those creatures that are close relatives of the true spiders and are also classed as arachnids.

As a mark of respect for the work of Emeritus Professor Fred Rost (University of NSW) in photographing the spiders of Sydney, this website also has a section that presents an overview of Fred's professional life and a gallery of his spider photos. His enthusiasm as a photographer infected his wife, Sarah Cartmell, and for this reason the gallery also includes a selection of Sarah's spider photos. To view Fred Rost's page click here.

What's happening in the spider world at the present time?

What spider numbers are evident in your part of Australia at a particularly time depends not only on the season but also on such things as which country or district you are living in, whether you reside in forest, farmland or some other kind of environmental setting, and what weather conditions you have been experiencing lately. In general, it can be said that there are more adult spiders around during late spring to early autumn than for the colder months of the year because there are more insects around for them to feed on when the weather is warm. In addition, adult males of many species will only be found in summer and autumn because this is when the population of adult females will usually be greatest. Adult spiders will be hard to find during mid-winter unless they occupy a habitat that protects them from the adverse conditions of winter. Finally, you can expect to see plenty of immature spiders in autumn and in early spring and you will find more spiders in areas of high rainfall and fewer examples of most species during droughts.

Sadly, the number and types of spiders present in Australia have tended to diminish over the last few decades and there are two major reasons for this: exploitation of virgin lands by humans and the occurrence of severe adverse climatic events. The exploitation of large areas of rainforest and bushland that were once habitats suitable for many different spiders has reduced the numbers of the many species that have not managed to adapt to life in or around man-made developments. This can only get worse as Australia's human population increases. The breaking up of extensive areas of undeveloped countryside into small pockets has diminished the ability of spiders to migrate successfully so an event such as a bushfire in an individual piece of bushland can eliminate virtually all members of a particular species in the locality. Similarly, the widespread practice of turning large areas of land into fields of wheat or pastures for sheep and cattle has even compromised the existence of many spider species that live in burrows in the ground. This has been particularly noteworthy in the always-marginal southern Australian lands from Western Australia to western Victoria. Not everyone believes in the widely discussed phenomenon of global warning but there is no denying the fact that severe weather events have become very common in the twenty-first century and each of these has a harmful effect on Australia's spider population, partly by directly killing the spiders and partly by depriving them of a good supply of insects to feed on.

From a taxonomic (i.e. classification) point of view it needs to be mentioned here that at the present time many spider experts around the world are very busy formally describing the many species that have not so far been assigned a scientific name. As part of this process they are also reviewing the names and family relationships of many of the known spider species and as a consequence of this have given some species new names (or actually their original and reactivating names that were assigned more than a century ago) and/or are placing them in Families other than the ones to which they have previously belonged. What does this mean for people who are not expert arachnologists but still like to refer to individual spiders by their correct scientific names?

Well, the main thing it means is that it is unwise to totally trust any printed book about spiders that was published more than a decade or two ago because many of the names used in older spider books will no longer be valid. The sad reality is that any printed spider book or published research paper could easily contain taxonomic errors almost from the day it first becomes available and even websites such as this one will include at least a taxonomic few errors. Fortunately, newer publications and good spider websites will often indicate older names that have been assigned to particular species along with the currently approved one. The presently accepted final arbiter of the correct scientific name and family for each spider species is the World Spider Catalog but you many discover that some apparent spider experts are using revised names for particular spiders that do not match those in the Catalog. If the expert involved has only very recently provided a new scientific name for a spider in a refereed publication then the reason why the World Spider Catalog has the previously accepted name instead is that the people who update the Catalog have an enormous task and therefore are probably several months behind in their revisions.

Email Ron Atkinson for more information.    Last updated 17 January, 2017.

Acknowledgments: The author wishes to publicly acknowledge the many people who have helped in the on-going development and operation of this website, in particular

* the University of Southern Queensland who hosted the the forerunner of this website over the period 2002-2009;
* the following expert arachnologists who provided species identifications and other advice or suggestions: Robert Raven, Val Davies and Barbara Baehr (Queensland Museum), Helen Smith (Australian Museum), David Hirst (South Australian Museum), Volker Framenau (Western Australian Museum) and Greg Anderson (QIMR);
* the many spider enthusiasts and especially Rob Whyte, Nick Monaghan, Trevor Jenks and Russel Denton who gave permission for the use their excellent photographs on this website.

Disclaimer: Every effort has been made to ensure that the contents of this website are accurate, particularly in regard to the identity of individual spiders and the toxicity of their venoms to humans and domesticated animals. Unfortunately, much remains to be clarified about the taxonomy and toxicity of Australian spiders. For this reason, the author accepts no responsibility for any injury or damage to persons or property that might result from the application of information supplied at this website.

Copyright: The contents of this website (apart from those photos that display the photographer's name) remain the property of the author, Ron Atkinson. Those who visit the site are permitted to make copies of any image or piece of text they require PROVIDED the source of this material is acknowledged whenever it is published or made available to others, but PLEASE NOTE that any image that displays the name of the person who took it may NOT be copied since the copyright for it remains with the photographer.