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
FAQ ID guide ID rules Glossary History More info Families Other arachnids
Spider food Spider silk Nervous system Reproduction Spider blood Mobility Spider defences Spider venoms

Spider Families

Spiders are placed into groups called families on the basis of the differing physical and behavioural characteristics of individual species. The following is a list of the spider families included in this web site with a brief description of the features that characterise each family.

The spider families are divided into the following suborders:

The Mygalomorphae

This name is given to the group of families that are considered to be comparatively primitive. They have two pairs of book lungs on the underside of the abdomen, fangs that operate vertically in a paraxial fashion, and no obvious female epigynum. They usually live in burrows either in the ground or in crevices in tree trunks because they cannot tolerate conditions that lead to desiccation (drying out). The following seven mygalomorph families are included on this website:

Actinopodidae: The front part of the carapace is broad and high with the eyes spread across its entire width. Both parts of the body are almost as broad as they are long. The legs are short and robust. Females are glossy black all over but males may have areas of red or pale blue. The spinnerets are short. The spiders live in a burrow with a double door. In the breeding season males may be found wandering above ground even during daylight hours. Both sexes are relatively slow moving and the females at least show little aggression. View these spiders...

Barychelidae: The body of this kind of spider is of 'average' mygalomorph shape and proportions. Both sexes are a semi-gloss black all over and sparsely hairy. The dense claw tufts combined with iridescent brushes on the ends of the legs are very distinctive. The spinnerets are very short as is true for all trapdoor families. Barychelids live in a burrow with a domed, inwards-opening door, which may not always be obvious. In the breeding season, which is autumn to early winter, males may be found wandering above ground even during daylight hours. View these spiders...

Cyrtaucheniidae: This is a very rare family with only one described species, Kiama lachrymoides Main and Mascord, 1969. Its generic name indicates the place where it was found: the Kiama district of coastal NSW, and it probably does not occur anywhere else. It lives in a deep, often branching burrow in rainforest creek banks and during the day uses an earthern plug to seal the burrow entrance. Females may have a body length up to 22 mm long and all parts of the spider are an orange-brown colour. The male is much smaller with an 11 mm body length. In most other respects this spider resembles a trapdoor spider (Family Idiopidae) and has short spinnerets. The only available photos of Kiama lachrymoides are in Mascord's 1980 spider book

Dipluridae: The body is relatively large and about three times as long as it is wide. The legs are robust and moderately long. The body is typically brown to black in colour with few distinctive markings. The eyes are in a close group and the carapace lacks obvious hairs. The spinnerets are very long long when compared with other mygalomorphs apart from the Theraphosidae. The spiders live in burrows in the ground or under stones and loose tree roots and the entrance to their retreat is covered with loose silk of variable arrangement. They are common in eucalypt forests. View these spiders...

Hexathelidae: The body is relatively large and about three times as long as it is wide. The colour is usually black but may be matt or (more commonly) glossy. The carapace is usually shiny and not obviously hairy. The abdomen sometimes has a symmetrical pattern of markings but most species lack these. The eyes are set in a close group and the spinnerets are moderately long. Hexathelids live in a burrow either in the ground or in hollows of trees. An elaborately constructed entrance to the burrow is usual and tripline threads of silk radiate away from it. These spiders prefer rainforest settings or at least open bushland in which to construct their burrows. View these spiders...

Idiopidae: The body is large and about three times as long as it is wide. The legs are strong and of moderate length. All body parts are brown and there are no striking surface markings. In some species the carapace has silver or golden hairs. The eyes are close together. The spinnerets are very short. These spiders are relatively slow moving and not particularly aggressive although the males, which may have a distinctive spur near the end of the tibia on the first pair of legs, will rear up if provoked. Idiopids live in burrows, at least some of which have a neatly fitting door. These spiders are able to live in more open fields and less moist soil than many other mygalomorphs. View these spiders...

Migidae: This family has very few Australian genera,Migas and Heteromigas being the best known ones. Migas species allegedly can be up to 30 mm in body length but most are much smaller than this. Their body shape and colour has some similarities with members of the Hexathelidae (funnel-webs), Nemesiidae (false-funnel-webs) and Idiopidae (trapdoor spiders) but, when examined carefully, can be seen to have a body shape that is distinct from all of those families. They seem to prefer to live in short burrows in the trunks of rainforest tree ferns and there is usually a door on the burrow entrance. These facts and the relatively short spinnerets migid species possess has led to them being referred to as tree trapdoor spiders. View these spiders...

Nemesiidae: The body is relatively large and about three times as long as it is wide. The legs are moderately long and robust. All parts of the body are brown to black in colour. The carapace is sometimes covered in silvery hairs and the eyes are in a close group. The spinnerets are moderately long. These spiders live in a burrow, the entrance to which is variably constructed. View these spiders...

Theraphosidae: The body is very large and about three times as long as it is wide. The legs are strong and moderately long with claw tufts and dense scopulae at their ends. For most Australian species the entire body and legs are a uniform brown colour and distinctly hairy. The spinnerets are comparatively long. These spiders prefer relatively arid conditions and dig deep burrows with relatively simple entrances. View these spiders...
Up

The Araneomorphae

This name refers to the spider families that are considered modern (or advanced) and can tolerate exposed habitats that promote desiccation. Araneomorphs have only one pair of book lungs, fangs that operate in a pincer-like diaxial fashion, and a distinctive and clearly visible epigynum on the underside of the adult female abdomen.

Amaurobiidae: The body is small to medium in size and is 'conventional' if somewhat variable in shape, this leading to the construction of several amaurobiid subfamilies. These are difficult to distinguish from each other even with the aid of a stereo microscope. There are several other families, including the Desidae and Dictynidae, that were originally considered to be amaurobiids because of their similar physical characteristics. The legs of true amaurobiids are moderateely long and slender and possess some spines or strong hairs. Body colour varies from yellow to brown and may appear somewhat translucent. Most amaurobiids live in crevices on or above ground or in retreats under bark or made from bound leaves and spider silk. View these spiders...

Ammoxenidae: These spiders have a small body with a pear-shaped cephalothorax and a tapering abdomen. The body is usually coated with fine hairs and scales that give it an iridescent satin sheen. Ammoxenids are included in the Lower Gnaphosoidea, a group of four small, gnaphosid-like families that also contains the Gallieniellidae, Trochanteriidae and Cithaeronidae. At least some of these are difficult to distinguish from gnaphosids even with the aid of a stereo microscope. Important characteristics of the Australian ammoxenids include flattened posterior median eyes and modified spinnerets. All legs are moderately long and tapering, the fourth pair being the longest and the third pair the shortest. The spiders have drab colours with minimal patterning. Ammoxenids normally wander at ground level and do not build a large insect-trapping web or retreat, but they may make use of crevices in the ground and these may be lined with a small amount of silk. View these spiders...

Anapidae: These are tiny spiders (bodies up to 2 mm long) that usually are found associated a small tent-like web in leaf litter, under loose bark, in caves or under overhanging rock walls. The cephalothorax is smaller than the abdomen, which typically is arched over the cephalothorax and nearly globular in shape. The head area is higher than the carapace with a sharp demarkation between the two. The fangs and associated structures may also be bizarre in shape. The legs are relatively short and slender. The Families Micropholcommatidae and Holarchaeidae were recently incorporated into the Anapidae. View these spiders...

Araneidae: This is by far the largest of the spider families. The body is of variable size but the abdomen is always much bigger than the cephalothorax. The legs also vary greatly in length and may be bare or quite hairy. The carapace may also have a covering of silvery hairs. The lateral pairs of eyes tend to be set close together and are sometimes on short stalks. When the spider is resting the legs are likely to be drawn up tightly against the carapace, which may be almost completely obscured. The abdomen varies in shape and markings and is frequently brightly coloured. It may have one or more sharp projections. For many species the male is much smaller than the female and is very different in appearance. Like many other kinds of spiders it has a large, rounded tarsal bulb on the end of each palp. The abdomen is oval to elongate and is considerably longer than the cephalothorax. Many araneids build suspended webs, the specific construction of which is useful for species identification, but many others use camouflage rather than a web to catch their prey. Most araneid webs are composed of white silk but Nephila species build extensive golden coloured webs. Araneid egg sacs also vary greatly in shape and colour. Some are flat pillows while others are balls of fluffy silk. Their colour varies from white to green-brown. View these spiders...

Archaeidae: The members of this family are often called pelican spiders because the long and almost vertical 'neck' region of the cephalothorax and the equally long pair of chelicerae give this spider the appearance of a pelican. The abdomen is also arched and has a scute (a tough shell-like skin) on top, this typically possessing several pairs of prominent tubercles (knobs). However, the adults are actually very small spiders with bodies approximately 2-4 mm long. They are normally found only in rainforest or permanently damp undergrowth environments. While they sometimes hide in crevices under bark, their preferred habitat appears to be damp moss or leaf litter. Although they seem to be somewhat fearful of suffering desiccation they have been seen to hang down from a strand of silk in the evenings and 'spear' their prey with their long, barbed chelicerae. View these spiders...

Arkyidae: Until 2016 the members of this family were included in the Family Araneidae but they have some distinctive characters which led to them being placed in their own family. Their cephalothorax is typically somewhat flattened and almost square but their abdomen is often quite bizarre in shape, brightly coloured, and mostly covered with patterns of more or less circular spots, pits and plates. The first two pairs of legs, which can retract like those of an araneid species, are usually held in a crab-like fashion and possess rows of inwards facing sharp spines that are obviously useful for grasping their prey. View these spiders...

Austrochilidae: Hickmania troglodytes is the only known Australian representative of this family. Its body is comparatively large in size and 3-4 times as long as it is wide. The legs are very long and slender with only a few fine hairs on them. The body and leg colours are shades of brown. Most specimens are found in caves and similar dark, cool cavities and this may be one of the reasons why they live much longer than other araneomorph species. They build a large horizontally suspended web. View these spiders...

Clubionidae: The body is small to medium in size and typically is about three times as long as it is wide. The legs are relatively long and slender. Body colour varies from pale green to yellow or brown and may appear somewhat translucent. Typically, they lack distinctive markings except perhaps a midline mark on one or both body segments. Most clubionids live in rolled up leaves or under bark or stones. View these spiders...

Corinnidae: The body is small to medium in size and typically is about three times as long as it is wide. The legs are moderately long and slender. Body colour varies but is usually yellow or brown and may have some surface patterning, perhaps including tiny iridescent green spots. Most corinnids live in leaf litter or on dry bark of trees. They tend to be fast runners. View these spiders...

Cyatholipidae: The body of this kind of spider varies somewhat with the particular species, the male characteristics being more distinctive than those of the female. The main feature that distinguishes the members of this family from those of the Family Theridiidae and some other spider families is the presence of a broad tracheal spiracle slit that runs across the underside of the abdomen just in front of the spinnerets. Unfortunately, this is very difficult to see even with the aid of a stereo microscope since all Australian cyatholipid species are very small. Most cyatholipids live among green leaves or on a horizontal sheet web. View these spiders...

Cycloctenidae: The body of this kind of spider varies somewhat with the particular species. The eye pattern is distinctive and there are rows of paired spines on tibia of the first two pairs of legs, these spines lying parallel with the tibial surface. Most cycloctenids are said to live in leaf litter or on dry bark of trees and live their lives as vagrants rather than building and occupying webs or retreats. View these spiders...

Deinopidae: The body is much longer than it is wide and tapers towards its rear end. The legs are very long and adapted for the net-casting activity for which this family is famous. Deinopis species have a pair of eyes that are unusually large and face forwards but the eyes of Menneus species are only slightly enlarged. The body parts are brown to grey in colour with some patterning. It is usual for deinopid males to rest with legs extended into an X configuration either on a thin web among shrubs or on vertical man-made surfaces such as screen doors. While waiting for its prey to approach a deinopid may stretch a rectangular web across two pairs of legs and prepare to cast it over the prey. The egg sac of the most common kind of deinopid is a brown delicately patterned sphere suspended from a thin thread. View these spiders...

Desidae: The body is small to moderate in size and is about four times as long as it is wide. Most members of this family are a uniform dark brown to black with only faint surface markings but Phryganoporus and Paramatachia species have obvious chevron marks on their dorsal abdomen. The cephalothorax and abdomen form a tapering cylinder in the case of Phryganoporus, which lives in a burrow in a tree branch, but a more conventional body shape is present for most other desid genera. Badumna species build a retreat in crevices under loose bark or in man-made walls using lacy silk and a funnel-like entrance. On the other hand Phryganoporus is one of the few Australian spiders that is often found in large colonial web masses in eucalypt forests. View these spiders...

Dysderidae: The body is moderately large in size and is about four times as long as it is wide, the abdomen being oval and about twice as long as the cephalothorax. There are only 6 eyes and the chelicerae are large and porrect (pointing forward rather than down). On the underside of the abdomen a pair of distinctive tracheal spiracle slits can be seen just behind the book lung openings. Only one species, Dysdera crocata, is definitely known to be present in Australia. This species is cosmopolitan but is most often found in south-east Australia, Tasmania and New Zealand. Dysdera crocata is distinguished by legs and cephalothorax that are a uniform brick red and an abdomen that is a pale salmon cream colour. It has the trivial name of woodlouse hunter because of its fondness for the woodlice that are so common in decomposing wood in leaf litter. View these spiders...

Eutichuridae: The Australian genera Cheiracanthium and Calamoneta are presently placed in this family although some taxonomists have suggested they are better placed in the Clubionidae, with which they have great physical similarities. Their body is a moderately large size and about three to four times as long as wide. Both major body segments are roughly circular in cross-section and covered with short, fine hairs. The abdomen is slightly longer than the cephalothorax and is tapered to a point at its rear end. The legs are relatively long and slender. These spiders tend to be yellow, tan or green coloured and lack distinctive markings except perhaps a midline mark on both body segments. View these spiders...

Filistatidae: The body is up to 8 mm in length and has an undistinctive body shape although the cephalothorax is much smaller than the abdomen. Filistatids have a divided cribellum in front of spinnerets which are too short to be seen except from underneath the spider. There is also a short, multi-row calamistrum. The eyes are in a compact group formed by two forward-curving rows of four. Both the cephalothorax and the abdomen have uniform markings and the legs have pale bands. Filistatids seem to prefer habitats at ground level, perhaps under fallen logs and loose rocks and can be found in open eucalypt forests to arid regions. View these spiders...

Gallieniellidae: This is a relatively obscure family of small leaf litter spiders that have an oval cephalothorax and abdomen and rather long, slender legs, the first and last pairs being much longer than the others. The body and legs as very shiny with no obvious hairs or spines and are typically almost black though the legs have some colourless areas. The spinnerets are all short. The chelicerae are somewhat porrect (i.e. they point forward) and the fangs point vertically downwards. View these spiders...

Gnaphosidae: These spiders have a small body with a pear-shaped cephalothorax and a tapering abdomen. The body is usually coated with fine grey hairs that may give the abdomen a satin sheen but there are quite a few Australian gnaphosid genera and these differ considerably in overall appearance. One pair of eyes is pearly white and aimed upwards. The anterior lateral spinnerets are moderately long, cylindrical, and widely spaced. All legs are relatively long without being slender.

Note the Prodidominae are group of spiders that were in a separate family, the Prodidomidae, but were moved into the Gnaphosidae in 2018.Small spiders commonly found among leaf litter in eucalypt forests. They have a reasonably 'conventional' body shape but with long, slender legs that lack spines and obvious hairs. Perhaps the most noteworthy characteristic of the Molycriinae branch of this family is the pair of remarkably long anterior spinnerets which originate about half way along the abdomen on its underside. The posterior spinnerets are in the more common position at the end of the abdomen. It is claimed that these enlarged anterior spinnerets are used to rapidly spin silk that is then used to catch ants, on which this kind of spider feeds exclusively. View these spiders...

Gradungulidae: Gradungulids are easily recognized because they have a pair of claws at the end of each leg but on the first two pairs of legs one of these claws is greatly enlarged. Some members of the family have a cribellum and calamistrum but most species are ecribellate. Their general body shape is similar to that of a wolf spider (Family Lycosidae) but they have two rows of four eyes, none of which are greatly enlarged, unlike those on a wolf spider. Members of the genera Progradundula and Macrogradungula have long, slender legs and spin complex web/retreats, typically in high altitude cave-like locations, whereas Tarlina and Kaiya species have shorter legs and are more likely to be found in leaf litter or under logs. View these spiders...

Hahniidae: The body is usually very small with no distinctive specialisations apart from the spinnerets, which are arranged in an almost straight line across the underside of the spider. The body colouring typically is a dappled brown to match the colour of the bark the spider normally hides under or the leaf litter it wanders through. View these spiders...

Hersiliidae: The body is small to moderate in size, the abdomen being its biggest part. The legs are long and slender and the spinnerets are remarkably long. The body colouring is brown to match the colour of the dry bark the spider is normally resting on, which provides excellent camouflage. View these spiders...

Lamponidae: The body is small to moderate in size and generally dark brown to black in colour. The cephalothorax and abdomen mostly are tapering cylinders or flattened and fit easily under loose bark or into narrow crevices. A distinctive characteristic of most lamponids is the presence of a white spot just above the spinnerets, which has led to their trivial name of white-tailed spider. View these spiders...

Linyphiidae: These are small spiders, the largest part of the body being the abdomen, which for at least some species is almost spherical. The body colour varies but tends to be grey to black with not much patterning on the abdomen. Linyphiids often make small webs in green vegetation and at times there may be large numbers of these webs in a small area. View these spiders...

Lycosidae: The body size varies from relatively small to quite large and is about three times as long as it is wide. The legs are moderately long and robust. The surface colours are mostly browns and greys with some distinctive surface markings on both body segments. One pair of eyes is unusually large and forwards-facing. Lycosids live in burrows in the ground but frequently leave their burrows to stalk ground-dwelling insects. Females sometimes drag an egg sac behind them attached to their spinnerets and then carry their newly hatched spiderlings on their back. Spiders occupying their burrows will often be seen just inside the entrance, which is sometimes fitted with a door but mostly is unadorned. View these spiders...

Malkaridae: This family contains very few described Australian species, only one of which has be found in South Queensland. Malkarids have an 'average' spider body shape and typically are only about 3 mm long. Both parts of the body may be somewhat flattened and have 'toughened' upper surfaces with numerous small pits. At maturity the male palp is relatively large. View these spiders...

Mimetidae: The body is moderately sized and about three times as long as it is wide. The cephalothorax is rounded and of average height and the abdomen is considerably larger and visibly patterned. The first 2 pairs of legs are much longer than the other two pairs and are often retracted over the body. All legs are visibly spiny and either banded or speckled but the outer segments of the first pair of legs have a uniform row of large curved spines along one side with a row of smaller spines between each pair of large ones. Mimetids do not make webs but are often found on green leaves and survive by ambushing other spiders. Hence, they are known as pirate spiders. View these spiders...

Miturgidae: The body of a 'conventional' miturgid such as a Miturga species is moderately large and about three times as long as it is wide. The body and legs are typical of an 'average' spider and are usually light brown to grey. Lighter stripes running along the body surfaces are also a likely feature. Miturgids live in low shrubs or under fallen logs or rocks and at least some of them occupy a retreat composed of dense white silk with several entrances.

Those genera that until 2014 were considered to belong to the Family Zoridae are small to medium sized spiders that are usually found in green vegetation (particularly eucalypts) or roaming on or in leaf litter. For many species the body shape is quite similar to that of a wolf spider (Family Lycosidae) but the legs tend to be somewhat longer and more tapered and may also point straight out from the spider's body in a radiating fashion. Some species have rows of parallel spines on the undersides of the first two pairs of legs. They do not have an enlarged pair of eyes as wolf spiders do and they also differ from wolf spiders in that they do not live in a burrow in the ground. Some species have distinctive longitudinal markings on their upper surfaces and there may also be tufts of hairs on the upper abdomen. However, the typical colours are brown-grey and there are usually no elaborate patterns on the upper body surfaces. View these spiders...

Nicodamidae: Small to medium sized spiders found in small sheet webs close to the ground in eucalypt forests. In most cases the cephalothorax and legs are uniformly red and the abdomen black and hence the members of this family are called red-and-black spiders. The body shape is the 'conventional' one for a spider. View these spiders...

Oecobiidae: Very small grey spiders found in small tubular webs in inside crevices in domestic dwellings and especially along window ledges. The first two pairs of legs are unusual in pointing forward then curving backwards. View these spiders...

Oonopidae: Small spiders less than 4 mm in body length with a cephalothorax that is flattened to domed and oval or pear-shaped. There are 6 eyes (AME absent) or none at all if they have adopted a habitat where there is likely to be very little light. The eyes are in 2 rows of equal width and spacing. The abdomen is oval and laterally flattened with a dorsal and a ventral scute (a tough shell-like outer layer), but both of these may be absent. The anal area is fringed by a double row of stiff hairs. The spinnerets are at or near the rear end of the abdomen. There may be 1-3 strong spines on the femurs of the first two pairs of legs and their tibiae may have 4 pairs of strong ventral spines with another 1-2 pairs of spines on the next more distal leg segment. Several oonopid genera are known to be present in Australia but it seems that the majority of described species are Opopaea species. For some other genera only one or a few species are known, although there are likely to be more waiting to be discovered and described. View these spiders...

Orsolobidae: Small spiders with some similarities to the Oonopidae. Although they can be up to 8 mm in body length most are only about 1.5 mm (males) to 2 mm (females). The cephalothorax has a tight cluster of 6 eyes (AME absent), two in the centre and a pair on each side. The abdomen tends to be longer than on an oonopid and on Hickmanolobus species is purple with pale chevrons. The dorsal and ventral abdominal scutes seen on many oonopid species are relatively uncommon on orsolobids. Like oonopids orsolobids mostly live in rainforest leaf litter or under loose tree bark. (No pages available as yet but images of some orsolobids can be found on Robert Whyte's Arachne website).

Oxyopidae: The body is small and has obviously spiny legs, the spines pointing outwards perpendicular to the leg surface. The eyes are arranged into a hexagon. The body colours are light green, brown or yellow and pale red or black stripes may be present along the body. Oxyopids prefer to forage on small garden plants and easily jump from leaf to leaf. They are very common in the well vegetated parts of Australia but surprisingly little recent work has been done to photograph and describe them taxonomically. It seems likely that one reason for this is that many of the common species vary considerably in surface markings from specimen to specimen so that sometimes only a very careful examination by stereo microscope or perhaps by mitochondrial DNA analysis will allow a confident determination of their correct species name to be made. View these spiders...

Philodromidae: The body of the known species of this family found in Australia is typically less than 10 mm in length. The cephalothorax is oval in shape but the abdomen is much longer and may be almost cylindrical. Its spinnerets are short and difficult to see. The legs have visible spines but these are finer and less erect than those on oxyopids. The first two pairs of legs are the longest pairs and point forwards while the last two pairs point sideways or backwards. All legs are relatively slender and have claw tufts at their ends. At least some legs have scopulae at their ends. In general, these spiders are cream to light brown in colour and have only faint surface markings. Philodromids are usually found on leaves in moist sclerophyll forest settings. View these spiders...

Pholcidae: These are the daddy-long-legs spiders with very long, slender legs. Some genera have elongate abdomens but most of the Australian ones have abdomens that are almost globular. An unusual characteristic of this kind of spider is the bundling of eggs into masses or strings with only a small amount of silk holding them together rather that a more robust egg sac. Pholcids are often found inside man-made constructions such as houses and sheds where they build relatively large untidy webs. View these spiders...

Pisauridae: Moderately large spiders at least some of which spread their legs radially to allow them to walk on water. Although pisaurids are generally known as water spiders that can spend time in bubbles under the surface of freshwater ponds, many species actually live in retreats in green vegetation well away from water. The body is like that of a lycosid spider except that none of the eyes are unusually large as is the case for a wolf spider and the posterior eyes are not located as far back along the body. View these spiders...

Psechridae: These are spiders with small elongate abdomens and very long, slender legs at the end of which are claws that can also be unusually long. They are called pseudo-orbweavers because they build a suspended orb web that that resembles that of some araneid species but is less regular in construction. They are actually cribellate spiders and this probably explains the relatively untidy web which, at least for some species, has a rolled leaf attached for use as a retreat. Until comparatively recently it was believed that there were no psechrid species in Australia, although they are well recognized as being present in countries to Australia's north. But in 2017 the World Spider Catalog lists two species: Fecenia ochracea and Psechrus argentatus, as being present in coastal Queensland down to the NSW border. View these spiders...

Salticidae: The body is mostly small and variable in shape. Many species have a comparatively robust cephalothorax and an abdomen that is about the same size or somewhat smaller. The legs are short and stout, especially the first pair which curve forwards and have strong spines. The eyes are arranged in two rows along the carapace and the anterior median pair are unusually large and point forwards. The usual body colours are grey, brown and black but some species have distinctive and colourful surface patterns. Salticids are found on leaves, tree trunks or any other surface where insects are likely to be found, including the outer walls of houses. They use silk to form egg sacs and retreats in leaves and under bark but they do not use it to catch their prey. Instead, they jump quite large distances to seize their prey or to escape predators. View these spiders...

Scytodidae: The body is of medium size but the smoothly domed appearance of the carapace and abdomen is distinctive as are also their surface markings. Only six eyes are present. The legs are slender and the spider uses them to stand high off any surface it is resting on. A significant behavioural characteristic of this kind of spider is that it uses neither a conventional web snare or venom-containing fangs to capture insects. Instead it sprays a sticky and toxic fluid over its prey and it is for this reason tha scytodids are also called spitting spiders. View these spiders...

Segestriidae: The body is of medium size and is the 'conventional' spider shape. All four pairs of legs are of similar length but the first three pairs point forwards and the last pair backwards. Segestriids have only only six eyes. Their usual habitat is a crevice or cavity from the entrance of which strands of silk (trip lines) radiate. These warn the spider of the presence of an insect near the burrow. View these spiders...

Selenopidae: A small to medium body with legs that curve forwards in crab-like fashion. Unlike sparassid (huntsman) spiders they have no obvious scopulae on the ends of the legs, but they are otherwise quite similar in appearance to sparassids although selenopids have flatter bodies and are unusual in having a curved row of six eyes across the front of the cephalothorax. Their normal habitat is under loose bark. View these spiders...

Sicariidae: A small to medium body that is normally a pale brown with very long, slender and tapering legs that radiate outwards from the body. There are no obvious markings on the upper surfaces of the adults apart from a darker cardiac mark on the midline of the abdomen and a violin-shaped dark mark that is mainly in the head region but that points back towards the abdomen. It is because of this mark that they are sometimes referred to as fiddle-back spiders. Their normal habitat is probably under loose bark but they have adapted well to human constructions and are famous, at least in the Americas, for their ability to induce long-lasting skin ulceration. View these spiders...

Sparassidae: This family contains very large hairy spiders with all legs curved forwards in crab-like fashion so the spiders can move sideways as well as straight ahead. The outer segments of each leg have dense scopulae which facilitate lateral movements. The typical body and leg colours are grey, brown and black, often with enough mottling to provide useful camouflage when the spiders are resting on bark surfaces. Some species have distinctive surface markings and at least some Neospaerassus species have patterns on the underside of their abdomens that are very useful taxonomically. It is usual to find huntsman spiders under bark, although they will sometimes be found on the walls of man-made constructions. View these spiders...

Stiphidiidae: The body is medium sized with long, radiating legs and a speckled brown appearance. These spiders are usually found under rock ledges where they build tent or sheet webs and wait underneath these until their prey falls onto the upper surface. View these spiders...

Tetragnathidae: The body is long and slender in the case of Tetragnatha species but Leucauge and most other tetragnathid genera have a more conventional abdomen shape. The legs are also very long and thin and tend to point fore and aft when a Tetragnatha specimen is at rest on a twig or in its web. On the other hand Leucauge normally hangs on the underside of its suspended web with its legs moderately spread. The chelicerae and palps of a Tetragnatha species are very large and sometimes have a quite bizarre shape, but this is not true of other tetrgnathids. The usual body colours are shades of grey, green, brown and yellow and there are often taxonomically useful patterns on the abdominal surfaces. View these spiders...

Theridiidae: Small spiders, mostly with a large abdomen and a very small cephalothorax. The males are much smaller than the females. The abdomen varies greatly in shape. On many generra it is almost spherical but on some genera it is slightly or even severely flattened and on others it is arched and has projections on its upper surfaces. A great variety of abdominal colours and surface patterns are found among the theridiids. The legs of a theridiid are mostly long and slender and there is a small tarsal comb on the end of the fourth pair of legs that the spider uses for drawing out silk from the spinnerets, but this is not easy to see, even with the aid of a stereo microscope. When a female captures its prey its classic behaviour involves using the tarsal combs to wrap up the prey with rhythmic sweeps of its fourth pair of legs. The theridiid web is typically tangled with little obvious organisation but incorporates a retreat area in which the female hides and lays her eggs. View these spiders...

Thomisidae: The body is small to moderate in size. The abdomen is somewhat larger and much more variable in shape than the cephalothorax. The general appearance of a thomisid is designed to provide appropriate camouflage in the spider's chosen habitat. Thus as a generalisation it is probably correct to say that if the spider chooses to live on tree bark its abdomen will have rough surfaces like that of bark whereas if it forages on green leaves or in flowers its colour and general appearance will be a good match with its preferred habitat. The legs are visibly spiny, especially the first two pairs which are very robust and curve forwards in crab-like fashion. The body colour tends to be white, green or brown but there are some quite colourful thomisid species in Australia. View these spiders...

Toxopidae: Toxopid species are often ground spiders but will also sometimes be found on or under the bark of trees. They have bodies and legs very similar to both the Lycosidae and the Desidae and for a while were even placed within the Family Desidae. They have mottled brown body surfaces and banded legs which presumably help camouflage them when they are resting on tree bark. Toxopids do not often enter houses and hence are not often by seen by the non-expert. View these spiders...

Trochanteriidae: This is a very heterogeneous family. Genera like Morebilus closely resemble Hemicloea but some other genera have a more 'average' body shape. This family was created because the trochanter (the second leg segment) on the fourth leg is supposed to be much longer than that of the other legs, but this is not true for all trochanteriids. The body is small to moderate in size and is about four times as long as it is wide. Most members of this family are a uniform dark brown to black with only faint surface markings. Trochanteriids may be found on the ground but also on or under tree bark. View these spiders...

Uloboridae: A small to medium sized body is present and the first pair of legs are particularly large and robust. Miagrammopes species have only a single row of four eyes across the head region and typically rest on a single thread of silk with legs and body all tight and in line so the spider looks like a dead twig. On the other hand, Uloborus species and Zosis geniculata have a more conventional leg and eye arrangement and an abdomen that tends to be arched over the rear of the carapace and may have several peaks. Uloborids are generally found in small, untidy webs but Uloborus barbipes makes a small horizontal orb web in garden shrubs with a partial stabilimentum incorporated into the web. On the other hand, Zosis geniculata has the unusual practice of constructing star-shaped egg sacs. View these spiders...

Zodariidae: These are medium to large ground-dwelling spiders that are considered to be ant-eaters and hence are often found on the ground or in leaf litter. The legs are moderately long and the body is generally dark brown or black. The carapace varies in shape but most often has a smooth domed surface. There are 8 eyes, six in a somewhat flattened circle and two in the centre. There are many Australian zodariid genera and most of them, including the very successful Habronestes and Asteron genera, have sets of white or yellow spots on the abdomen. These might have been taxonomically useful except that so many different zodariid genera have very similar abdominal spots. View these spiders...

Zoropsidae: These are small to reasonably large sized spiders that are usually found as ground hunters in rainforests or damp near-tropical eucalypt forests. Their body shape is quite similar to that of a rather furry wolf spider (Family Lycosidae) but their 8 eyes are in two almost straight rows of 4 and they lack the pair of greatly enlarged eyes that characterize lycosids. Other distinguishing features are the location of the spinnerets on the end of a tapering extension of the abdomen and the presence of 4-6 pairs of strong spines on the tibiae of the first two pairs of legs and 2-3 pairs on the next leg segment (the metatarsus). Neither of these features are easy to see without looking at the spider from underneath. View these spiders...
Up


Email Ron Atkinson for more information.    Last updated 27 October 2018.