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, a spider that was found elsewhere will probably not be on this website but the ones that are are presented here 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. Hence 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.

Please note also that as from November 2018 this website now has a new non-expert's spider identification key which you will find on the ID guide page.

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?

Seasonal and habitat changes: How many of each kind of spider are present 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.

Changes due to human interventions: Although it is generally agreed that Australia still has more undescribed spider species than ones to which a scientific name has been assigned it is also true that some species have declining numbers, especially ones that have relatively limited ranges and especially in places where humans have greatly altered the natural environment. Clearing and exploitation of virgin lands by humans has put some spider species at risk and provided improved conditions of those spiders that have managed to adapt to places modified by human interventions. But perhaps a more generalised problem is severe adverse climatic events that are probably due to man-made global warming. Even in places where enterprises such as broad-acre farming have potentially improved the habitats of some spider species those spiders that have had their habitats destroyed by clearing of bushland, cultivation of soil and control of insect pests have inevitably gone into decline. This must surely get worse as Australia's human population increases.

Spider classification changes: From a taxonomic (i.e. classification) point of view it is important for you to understand that at the present time the world's spider experts are very busy formally describing species that have not so far been assigned a scientific name but also reviewing and often changing the names and family relationships of many known spider species. As a consequence of this activity some well known species have been given new names and/have been moved to Families other than the ones to which they have previously belonged.

So what does this mean for you? Maybe you are someone who is not an expert arachnologist but would still like to be able to call individual spiders by their correct scientific names. If so then you need to understand that it is unwise to totally trust any printed book about spiders, especially one that was published more than a decade or two ago because many of the names such books contain 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 enters circulation and even websites such as this one will inevitably include at least a few taxonomic 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 this is a massive task so the people who update the Catalog are sometimes several months behind in their revisions. In addition, they have an uncritical acceptance of every published spider paper so it is always possible for a spider name change to have to be reversed at a later date.



Email Ron Atkinson for more information.    Last updated 27 November, 2018.

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 and the Toadshow organisation which has provided server space for this website since 2010;
* 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, Greg Anderson, Nick Monaghan, Trevor Jenks, Russel Denton, Laura Levens, Liz and Graeme MacRaild, Glenda Walter and Beth Shaw, all of whom gave permission for the use of 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 and natural history of individual Australian spiders but the reality is that spider classification is presently in a state of constant change so it is inevitable that there will always be at least a few inaccuracies on this site, though these are corrected as soon as the author becomes aware of their existence. In addition, the toxicity of the venom of most Australian spiders to humans and domesticated animals has never been adequately tested in laboratory conditions and 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.