The Find-a-Spider Guide

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Coastal golden orb-weaver

Fact Box
Species:
Trichonephila plumipes (Hawkeswood, Platnick)
Previous species name:
Trichonephila ornata
Family:
Araneidae
formerly Nephilidae (see below)
Body length:
female: 21 mm
male: 5 mm
Habitat:
In a large web, sometimes extending to the ground and strung between tree branches, the spider occupying its web during the day
Toxicity:
The venom of this species is not considered to be very toxic to humans
Trichonephila plumipes
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With egg sacs
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Female in web
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The male palp
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Male and female
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Another specimen
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Underneath female
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Immat. male palp
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The male

In early 2020 the correct generic name for this spider and the family it belongs to are uncertain. In 2017 Dimitrov et al (Cladistics 33(3) 221-250) moved back to the Araneidae all of the species that had previously been placed in a new family, the Nephilidae, and continued to use Nephila as the generic name for the common Australian golden orb weavers. Then in 2019 Kintner et al (Systematic Biology 68(4) 557-572) resurrected the Family Nephilidae and changed to Trichonephila the generic name of some of the species that had long been known as Nephila species. This seems to have confused the compilers of the World Spider Catalog because in February 2020 the WSC uses the names Trichonephila edulis and Trichonephila plumipes but has left them in the Family Araneidae.

The species shown above exhibits striking sexual dimorphism, the small male often waiting on the periphery of the web. An important characteristic of the female is the present of black brushes along the legs.

The web is remarkably strong and has a characteristic yellow colour as does the fluffy egg sac which tends to be left in the tree the spider was using for support. Nephila/Trichonephila webs normally contain a string of debris masses which are the remains of insects the spider has eaten. The tendency to produce such a string is rare among orb weaver species so this is a useful identification feature.

In many parts of south-east Queensland this species is present in very large numbers, especially throughout the warmer months of the year. It is common for a single dead tree to have as many as 30 individual golden orb-weaver webs attached to it.

Spider(s) with a very similar appearance: Trichonephila edulis and Nephila pilipes.


Email Ron Atkinson for more information.    Last updated 21 February 2020.