Spider Identification GuideThe majority of spider species are not easily identified by the non-expert. This is partly because individuals of two different species sometimes look very similar to one another or, conversely, two individuals of the same species show enough variability in physical appearance to be perceived as being different species. Visitors to this website who do not have an extensive knowledge of spider classification may even be confused or overwhelmed by the terminology associated with spider recognition. If you are such a person you might like to visit the identification conventions page that has now been added to the Find-a-spider website.
If your ambitions are more modest but you do have a spider you would like to identify, a good way to start might be to seek answers to at least some
of the following questions:
And now for those who are not trained or experienced in the identification of spiders but who would like to make an attempt to identify a spider they have found here is a 'non-expert's' classification key that you might like to work through.
A NON-EXPERT'S KEY FOR IDENTIFICATION OF AUSTRALIAN SPIDERS
Note: The following classification key may help you identify the more common genera of Australian spiders but will mostly not attempt to distinguish comparatively rare families or genera or even most of the individual species within any particular genus. It is also important to remember that some specimens you happen to find will be immature and hence may look rather different than mature examples of the same species. An adult male spider is usually recognized by a species-specific enlargement of the ends of its pedipalps and adult females have a characteristic epigynum (though the epigynum of female mygalomorph species is not easily seen), this being visible between the booklungs only when the underside of the spider is viewed. In addition, it must be borne in mind that the overall appearance of the male of some spider species is so different from that of the female that they seem to be entirely different species. Finally, the habitat and locality in which a specimen was found may be very useful for determining its probable identity and should always be taken into account when trying to identify a spider.
Your attempt at classification of an unknown spider should START HERE: For each of the following numbered categories below you should first check if your spider seems to fit that category and if it does not then move down to the next category. Having convinced yourself that your spider belongs in a particular family you can then scroll ut to the top of this page and click on the Families icon to open a page that lists each of the families with links to all members of that family for which there are individual pages on this website.
1A. Mygalomorphae: These are the 'primitive' spiders, characterised by the following: a relatively large body size, paired chelicerae and fangs that lie in parallel and curve downwards like the flexed index and middle fingers of a hand, and two pairs of book lungs on the underside of the abdomen. Being susceptible to desiccation they all live in burrows in the ground or in rotted tree trunks, although during their breeding season the males must wander above ground in wet conditions in search of females. To check which mygalomorph you have found move down to 2. The Mygalomorph Families.
1B. Araneomorphae: These are the 'modern' spiders, which may vary in size from very large to very small and which have chelicerae and fangs that operate more-or-less transversely like pincers and only one pair of book lungs under the abdomen. They can live on or above ground without suffering rapid desiccation and may be free-moving or resting in suspended webs or silken retreats. To check which araneomorph you have found move down to 3. The Araneomorph Families.
2. THE MYGALOMORPH FAMILIES
2A. Actinopodidae: These are called mouse spiders and all Australian examples are Missulena species. The front half of the body (the cephalothorax) is relatively short and broad and the 'head' area rises sharply above the carapace. The four pairs of eyes are spread widely across the head. The cephalothorax, chelicerae and legs are glossy black although on some adult males the chelicerae and head may be red. The abdomen is matt black to blue or purple and in the case of M. bradleyi males has a pale bluish patch at its front end. The spinnerets are very short so are barely visible when the spider is viewed from above. Mouse spiders live in burrows in the ground and there is usually a door or double-door at the burrow entrance. They are more common in open forests and semi-arid areas rather than in rainforests but may be found in all mainland Australian States.
2B. Barychelidae: These are sometimes called brush-footed trapdoor spiders because they have a pair of brush-like hair tufts (called claw tufts) at the end of each leg, which true trapdoor spiders (Idiopidae) lack. The cephalothorax is not much shorter than the abdomen and the head region is not sharply domed as on a mouse spider. The body and legs can be very dark but are often hairy and a light brown shade though never glossy. The spinnerets are very short and barely extend far beyond the rear of the abdomen. The upper surfaces of the body of some species may have a silvery sheen, most prominent on males. These spiders make burrows often with a door and sometimes with more than one entrance. Common genera such as Idiommata, Ozicrypta and Seqocrypta seem to prefer relatively dry land areas but Idioctis is unusual in being an intertidal species that lives in shoreline burrows along the North Queensland coast.
2C. Atracidae and Hexathelidae: The Atracidae are the Australian funnel-web spiders, the described genera being Atrax and Hadronyche. These two genera were originally included in the Family Hexathelidae but in 2018 the decision was made to place them into a new family, the Atracidae. Some less common and probably less dangerous genera such as Paraembolides were left in the Family Hexathelidae. The Atracidae are based on the Sydney funnel-web spider, Atrax robustus but all Atrax and Hadronyche species are very similar in appearance and have a glossy black cephalothorax as well as legs and an abdomen that are matt black or purple-pink. On the other hand Paraembolides is lighter in colour and not quite as shiny, and its abdomen may have some abdominal patterning. A taxonomically useful characteristic of the Atracidae is the ease with which they can be induced to rear up in an aggressive pose when threatened, but it should be pointed out that a few other kinds of mygalomorphs will also do this at least to some extent. On the other hand, only a male funnel-web will automatically secrete droplets of venom onto the ends of its fangs when it rears up. The species of both of these families have moderately long spinnerets which can easily be seen from above but are not as long as on the Euagridae and Theraphosidae. They all live in burrows in the ground or in tree trunk hollows and the burrow entrance characteristically has trip-line threads of silk radiating from it. There are many described Australian Atracidae species, these being found in all Eastern States and Tasmania but not in the western half of the country.
2D. Euagridae: Formerly considered to belong in the Family Dipluridae these moderately large spiders are distinguished by the presence of very long spinnerets which extend far beyond the end of the abdomen. Theraphosids are the only other kind of mygalomorph that have very long spinnerets but the appearance of the common Australian euagrid genera, Cethegus, Australothele and Namirea, is otherwise very different. Euagrids can be quite dark but often are more nearly brown than black and are never as glossy as a mouse spider or true funnel-web. In fact, the cephalothorax of at least some species has a covering of very fine hairs. Cethegus and Australothele typically have burrows in the ground with a fluffy mound of silk covering the entrance, whereas Namirea is more likely to construct an extensive but untidy web in cracks around loose stones or roots.
2E. Halonoproctidae: This family is poorly represented in Australia. The only described genus is Conothele, which has one or two species that can be found in a variety of habitat types in the northern half of Australia, though almost never in large numbers. Conothele lives in a short burrow in the ground (or in a hollow tree trunk), a door closing the burrow entrance. The female resembles a trapdoor female (Family Idiopidae) in body shape and colour and also in having short spinnerets, but is distinguished by the presence of a saddle-shaped kink between the patella and tibia on Leg III.
2F. Idiopidae: This family includes the true trapdoors but you should note that some members of this family do not have a door at the top of their burrows and there are also some members of a few other families (both mygalomorph and araneomorph) that construct burrow entrance doors. Idiopids can be found all over Australia but as a generalisation it can be said that of the more successful genera Arbanitis (now including many species previously called Misgolas species) is most common in Eastern Australia and Tasmania, Euoplos can be found Australia-wide, Cataxia is mainly a Northern Australian genus, Blakistonia occurs in Southern Australia, and Anidiops and Idiosoma are restricted to the western half of the country.
The idiopid body is basically the same shape as that of a funnel-web but although some species are quite dark in colour most are brown and not as shiny as a funnel-web and some have silvery hairs on their carapace. In addition, they have spinnerets that tend to be too short to be visible from above and they do not add trip-lines to the top of their burrows, which may be open and sometimes projecting well above the ground or closed at ground level by some kind of entrance door. Males of at least a few species can rear up aggressively when threatened but do not release venom spontaneously as a male funnel-web will do. Another useful fact is that males may have a double spur at the distal end of Tibia I whereas funnel-web males have some kind of spur (or nothing at all) half way along Tibia II. In addition, idiopid males are most likely to emerge from their burrows in autumn-winter whereas male funnel-webs are usually seen above ground in the warmer months of the year.
2G. Migidae: There are very few named members of this family in Australia so they are rarely found by the general public. The best known genera are Migas and Heteromigas, which are somewhat similar to funnel-webs in body shape and colour but are significantly smaller and have short spinnerets like those of an idiopid. They have been recorded in virtually all States but never in large numbers. They are said to build small nests on tree trunks or burrows (sometimes with a door) in forest soil.
2H. 'Nemesiidae': This was a large and very successful mygalomorph family in Australia but as of June 2020 was subdivided into three new families. The first of these, the Anamidae, contains the genus Aname, a common and widespread genus with many described species, but Namea, Chenistonia, and several less widely known genera have also been placed in the Anamidae. Somewhat surprisingly, Stanwellia, a genus that is easily confused with Chenistonia, has been placed in another new family, the Pycnothelidae, and Ixamatus and Xamiatus have been placed in yet another family, the Microstigmatidae. All of these former nemesiids have body shapes somewhat similar to each other and to that of an idiopid and vary in colour from light brown to dark chocolate. Some have visible dorsal abdominal markings and in some cases the males have distinctive spurs or other modifications on at least one pair of legs.
A taxonomically important characteristic of these 'nemesiids' is that their spinnerets extend beyond the end of the abdomen to about the same extent as on a funnel-web spider and hence are easily seen from above, although individual spiders often curl them up around the abdomen and thereby make them look shorter than they actually are. The cephalothorax is never very shiny and may have a coating of short hairs. Males of at least some of the Australian nemesiid genera have obvious spines and/or spurs on the tibia of Leg I as well as a Metatarsus I that is not simply round but is shaped more like a dustpan brush. The 'typical' nemesiid burrow can be quite deep and sometimes tortuous. It may be lined with white silk but there is unlikely to be a door or any extension of the burrow lining above ground. However, a thin film of silk is sometimes present across the burrow entrance.
2I. Theraphosidae: These are the 'true' tarantula spiders but you should note that in some other parts of the world members of araneomorph families such as the Lycosidae are also called tarantulas, though this is not really a valid trivial name for them. The cephalothorax of a theraphosid is nearly as long as the abdomen and both of them, as well as the legs, are an almost uniform tan colour and do not look shiny because of a covering of very fine hairs and scales. At least some of the legs may appear more obviously hairy than the others and another taxonomically important characteristic of the legs is the presence of a pair of dense claw tufts at the end of each tarsus. This feature is shared only with the Barychelidae. Tarantulas live in deep burrows in the ground, the entrance often being covered with a loose bundle of silk. The most common Australian tarantula genus is usually listed as Selenocosmia, although it must be pointed that there is an on-going dispute as to whether or not this name should be changed to Phlogius. Selenocosmia stirlingi seems to be present over a large part of the Australian continent but Selenocosmia crassipes is largely restricted to Queensland and Selenotholus foelschei is mainly found in Western Australia and the Northern Territory. There is also at least one relatively uncommon theraphosid genus in Northern Australia.
3. THE ARANEOMORPH FAMILIES
There are approximately 70 araneomorph families with representatives in Australia but 29 of these will not be described in detail on this page because they are either very small and/or so rare that members of the general public are unlikely to ever find a specimen. Therefore if you are lucky enough to find a spider that appears to belong in one of these families you probably should request the help of an expert arachnologist. To see the names and brief descriptions of each of these 'obscure' families scroll down to 10, 11 THE MINOR FAMILIES below.
The rest of the Australian araneomorph families will now be briefly described. There is no easy way to classify them unless you have a very comprehensive knowledge of arachnology, in which case this page is undoubtedly too basic to be of value to you. For this reason an arbitrary subdivision of the 39 families a non-expert might find specimens of has been made based on the kind of habitat in which the you are most likely to find each of them. Such a classification is problematic because the members of some families can be found in more than one basic kind of habitat and it is also possible that by chance a specimen will be found in a habitat that is not its normal one. Where the members of an individual family belong in more than one of the habitat categories used below some indication of possible alternative habitats for that family will be given.
4. Spiders found on or in buildings and other man-made constructions
You should first note that some of the spiders that you might find on the floor inside your house or garage will actually be male mygalomorph species that have come out of their burrows in search of females during their breeding season, usually during rainy periods. None of these are likely to climb walls but occasionally are accidentally brought inside because they have hidden themselves in clothing or other items that were left outside for a while. Another important fact is that of the seven families listed in this section most are really spiders that normally live on the ground, under rocks or logs, or in various kinds of vegetation and they have established themselves inside or on outside walls just because house walls and furniture often provide them with useful hiding places.
4A. Cycloctenidae: This is a comparatively minor family in Australia and its members usually live on leaves, tree bark or stony ridges where their camouflage colours make them difficult to see. The only cycloctenid that is often seen on house walls is a male of a Cycloctenus species that has impressive black-and-white brushes on its first pair of legs.
4B. Deinopidae: This is the net-casting spider family, the members of which usually live in green vegetation. The main exception is the male of Deinopis subrufa, which is very often found on screen doors and which looks like a few pieces of dead twig. The Deinopidae are one of the three spider families that have a pair of very large, forward-pointing eyes, the other two being the Salticidae and Lycosidae. Deinopids have an elongate, slim body and very long, slender legs, the latter normally being positioned in pairs to form an X. This kind of spider does not spin an extensive web but instead makes a rectangular silk net which it can cast over any prey it wishes to capture.
4C. Lamponidae: The Lamponidae are a very large family but most members have minimal tendency or opportunity to enter houses and so are almost never noticed by the general public. The exceptions are two Lampona species, L. murina and L. cylindrata. The former is most common in North-eastern Australia and the latter in Southern Australia. They are very similar in appearance, as are also most other Lampona species and many of the other lamponid genera. This kind of spider is also known as the white-tailed spider and is often mentioned by the popular media because of the alleged (but now disproved) ability of its venom to cause severe skin ulceration at a bite site. The spider's legs and two tapering body sections are a uniform dark brown colour but there is a white spot at the rear end of the abdomen and it is this that led to the white-tailed spider name. The species that move into houses tend to hide in crevices in the eaves and behind furniture and may remain there long enough to lay eggs and produce a large number of spiderlings, but they usually disappear after a while even without any pest control measures being taken.
4D. Oecobiidae: A characterist of this kind of spider is the way all legs tend to curve forwards then bend back at their tips. While oecobiids also occur in crevices outside human constructions people usually only notice them when they build open-ended tube-like retreats, especially along window frames. This is particularly true for the common species, Oecobius navus which, being rather small, tends to remain undetected if the home owner is not fastidious about cleaning the house.
4E. Pholcidae. Most pholcid genera build their tangled webs under bridges, fallen logs, rock crevices, and caves but a few species have adapted to life within houses, sheds, abandoned machinery and similar objects provided the owner does not clean that part of the property very often. Pholcids such as the very common Pholcus phalangioides have very long slender legs and a cephalothorax that is much smaller than the abdomen, the latter being elongate on this species and some other pholcid genera but nearly globular on others, including Crossopriza lyoni. Their long legs and extensive webs give pholcids the ability to be very effective at catching their prey, and when they in turn are threatened by other predators at least some species defend themselves by violently shaking the web.
4F. Scytodidae: These are called spitting spiders because they don't inject venom into their prey but instead squirt sticky toxic fluid over them. Their cephalothorax is unusual in sloping upwards towards the rear, and their bodies often have distinctive banding, as seen on Scytodes thoracica. They have relatively long and slender legs and are usually found on inside walls with no associated webbing of any kind. Presumably, their natural habitat is on any open surface where they can hunt nocturnally.
4G. Sparassidae: Commonly known as huntsman spiders these may be found in a variety of habitats, including on green leaves, under loose bark and in any convenient crevice. They are included here as spiders found on buildings because most people discover them on inside walls or behind furniture and their large size and ability to run fast is very frightening for those who are not aware that they rarely bite anyone and their venom is not considered to be seriously dangerous to humans. Heteropoda and Holconia species are the ones most likely to be present in and around buildings whereas Delena is usually found under loose tree bark and Neosparassus species are common in green vegetation. Sparassids have legs that are similar in length and curve forward in crablike fashion when the spider flattens itself in order to slide into crevices. Most species are orange, fawn or grey in colour although a few are green, presumably for camouflage reasons. Some are almost uniformly coloured but others have distinctive body markings and leg bands and some Neosparassus species have unique and colourful patterns under their abdomens. No sparassid is shiny but many are quite hairy and Pandercetes, the lichen spider, uses this character as a disguise that makes it almost invisible when it is resting on bark of a similar colour.
5. Spiders found on leaves, flowers or the bark of trees
5A. Arkyidae: Originally included in the web-weaving family, the Araneidae, the members of the Arkyidae were placed in a separate family because they do not make use of webs to trap their prey but instead have bizarre body shapes and colours that disguise what they really are. This is particularly noteworthy among the very common Australian Arkys species. They can therefore rest quietly on green leaves and use the rows of very strong spines on the inside edges of their first two pairs of legs to grasp any prey that ventures close to them.
5B. Hersiliidae: These are almost always found on tree bark, where their appearance matches that of the bark so well that they are almost invisible if they remain stationary. The very long thin legs and spinnerets on this kind of spider are unique so the most important genus, Tamopsis, is easy to identify but not so easy to detect.
5C. Mimetidae: In terms of their overall appearance the members of this family resemble species from several other spider families but the one thing that really makes them easy to distinguish is the presence, especially on the Legs I and II, of rows of erect spines that are very uniform in length and spacing along the leg. At higher magnification it is also possible to see that between each pair of large spines is a row of short spines and these arrangements are unique to this family. Mimetids such as Australomimetus may spin a small amount of silk but they do not depend on a web to catch their prey. Instead they rest quietly under leaves or fallen logs in bush settings with their first two pairs of legs folded sharply backwards and wait for their prey to wander near them. A widely used trivial name for the mimetids is pirate spiders because they also tend to approach the webs of other spiders, shaking the webs and then seizing the host spider when it comes to investigate the disturbance.
5D. Nicodamidae: These are known as the red-and-black spiders because some parts of their bodies and legs are a bright red colour and the rest are a blue-black colour. This distinctive colour scheme makes them easy to recognize. They are known to build sheet webs close to the ground in forest settings but are most often found on leaves or tree trunks with little or no associated webbing.
5E. Oxyopidae: Oxyopids are very common flower and leaf spiders which are sometimes confused with the Salticidae (the so-called jumping spiders) because both kinds of spiders are small, somewhat similar in overall appearance, and capable of jumping relatively large distances. However, they do not have the large pair of eyes that characterize salticids and they have erect spines on their legs which salticids lack. Because they are primarily ambush hunters they have no need for a web, except to use when building a retreat in which to lay their eggs. The most important Australian genus is Oxyopes, some members of which are quite attractively coloured and patterned and are frequently encountered by people working in their gardens.
5F. Philodromidae: This is relatively insignificant spider family in Australia and most people will never see a philodromid specimen in its natural habitat. They probably are rather more common than this suggests but they tend to live secluded lives among green leaves, tree bark or perhaps in leaf litter. Their overall shape is variable but they typically have bodies of average length and quite long slender legs that tend to be straight and radiate around the body in a manner that facilitates flattening of the spider onto whatever surface it is occupying. The majority of known species live in open forest settings.
5G. Pisauridae: These are sometimes referred to as water spiders because some of them are known to be able to walk on the still water of a dam or pond. However, this ability is also shared with at least a few lycosid species and the majority of pisaurid species are actually happy to live among green leaves in moist forests. Common pisaurids such as Dolomedes species look quite similar to members of the Lycosidae (wolf spiders) although Megadolomedes australianus and the green Northern Australian species, Hygropoda lineata, have much longer legs than can be found on any lycosid. Both lycosids and pisaurids have a posterior eye row that curves backwards on the head region of the cephalothorax but the Pisauridae lack the large pair of forward-facing eyes that characterize a lycosid, all of their eyes being small or average-sized. Another noteworthy difference between a lycosid and a pisaurid is that females of the former family drag their egg sacs around behind them whereas pisaurid females carry their egg sac underneath the cephalothorax. Being fast-runners pisaurids usually do not need to build webs for snaring their prey and use silk mainly to build retreats among leaves (or even underwater in one instance) and to form their egg sacs.
5H. Selenopidae: This kind of spider looks very similar to a huntsman spider (Family Sparassidae) but their bodies are even more flattened and their leg arrangement more crab-like. This allows them to move very fast and to slide into and out of narrow crevices such as loose tree bark and hence facilitates ambushing of unsuspecting prey. Probably for these reasons six of their eight eyes are in a single row across the front of the head, another feature that distinguishes them from a huntsman spider. The most common Australian selenopids are Karaops species, all of which are grey-brown colours that provide good camouflage when the spider is resting on tree bark.
5I. Thomisidae: In Australia the Family Thomisidae has flourished and now has many genera that vary greatly in appearance, although virtually all of them live on tree trunks, green leaves or flowers. Many thomisids have distinctively patterned body surfaces, the colours typically being a good match for the habitat on which they are normally found. Thus bark spiders like Sidymella and Stephanopis are a mottled brown or grey colour and often have very rough body and leg surfaces, thomisids such as Australomisidia and Hedana that live on green leaves are at least partly greenish or sometimes brown-black, and the well known flower spider, Thomisus spectabilis, that waits for its prey in the centre of a flower, is white though some other flower thomisids are patterned in yellow, orange or red. The use of multiple colours camouflages the typical thomisid so well it does not need to use silk to capture its prey. It has a somewhat flattened body with all legs curving sideways and forward in crab-like fashion and this is why at least some thomisids are called crab spiders. The first two pairs of legs are longer than the other two pairs and have strong spines on their inside edges. These help them to grasp their prey and their excellent camouflage usually means they don't even need to be fast runners. However, it is inappropriate to use the term crab spider as a synonym for all thomisid spiders because there are some genera that do not resemble crabs. For example, Synalus angustus has a slender body with Legs I and II pointing straight forward and Amyciaea albomaculata and Bomis larvata don't look even remotely crab-like.
5J. Toxopidae: Toxopid species such as Toxopsoides erici havies bodies and legs very similar to both the Lycosidae and the Desidae and for a while were even placed within the Family Desidae. They are described as arboreal hunters and have mottled brown body surfaces and banded legs which presumably help camouflage them when they are resting on tree bark. Though not all that rare, toxopids do not often enter houses and hence are not often by seen by members of the public except perhaps those who like to explore the natural habitat for interesting creatures.
6. Spiders occupying a suspended web
6A. Araneidae: People often refer to this family as the orb-weaving spiders but this is not a good overall name for them because most of them do not spin and suspend a web that is a round shape. It is better to call them web-weaving spiders but even this term is not true for every member of the family. In addition, while most of them do spin web snares to catch their prey they are not the only spider family that does this, although they are easily the most successful one to do so. To further confuse the unwary, the male of many species is much smaller than the female and/or is so different in appearance it looks like it must surely be a different species altogether. Even just in Australia the Araneidae is a very large family and justifies a website of its own but for the sake of brevity the emphasis here will be on the araneids most often found unintentionally by the general public, usually in their gardens or in bush settings.
The Araneidae vary greatly in size and shape according to the habitat they have chosen. Some of them construct very large webs in gardens, often in locations that are inconvenient to us. Many people will be familiar with large web-weavers such as Eriophora transmarina (normally only seen at night in its large vertical orb web), Nephila species (the golden orb-weaver that spins a yellowish web and egg sac), Cyrtophora moluccensis with its large tangled and domed web, and Argiope keyserlingi which when resting on its web has a distinctive X-shaped leg arrangement overlying a matching stabilimentum of dense white silk. However, many people will also have accidentally walked through the web of one of the small araneid species such as Araneus rotundulus or Cyclosa trilobata because the web has been constructed across a footpath and is thin enough not to be noticed before walking into it. Several other species are quite large and common in gardens but not seen because they are hiding in a retreat attached to a very visible web, good examples of this being Phonognatha graeffei, which hides in a suspended rolled-up dead leaf with a fan-shaped web attached to its lower end, and Cyrtophora hirta, which has a retreat at the top of a web shaped like an inverted funnel.
Araneids can be very colourful, probably for camouflage purposes, the Gasteracantha species of Northern Australia illustrating this very well. They can also have deceptive markings and shapes. Examples of this are the half-circle of black spines on Austracantha minax (the jewel spider), the very large false eyes on the rear end of the abdomen of Araneus praesignis, the scorpion-like shape of Arachnura higginsi, and the bird-dropping appearance of Celaenia excavata. On the other hand Dolomedes and Poltys species and also Acroaspis olorina simply match their appearance so well to the twig they are resting on that they appear to be just part of the twig.
6B. Linyphiidae: Linyphiids look like the 'typical' araneid but also closely resemble members of the Family Theridiidae such as the redback spider, Latrodectus hasseltii. There are quite a few linyphiid genera in Australia but they all have bodies only a few millimetres long and they keep such a low 'presence' that very few people who are not spider experts ever notice them. However, what the public do notice is the tendency of some species to build so many small tent-like webs in grassy fields that the entire field seems to be covered with them. Among the most common Australian genera are Erigone, Laetesia and Laperousea species as well as the distinctively coloured Ostearius melanopygius, but not all Australian linyphiids live in tent-like webs in low vegetation. Instead, some are leaf litter spiders and others prefer crevices in tree bark. These latter spiders generally spin only a small web.
6C. Stiphidiidae: While there are several stiphidiid genera in Australia almost none of them are numerous or widespread enough to be noticed by non-experts, at least partly because their preferred habitats are rainforests and caves. However, one notable exception is Stiphidion facetum, which people occasionally find because it builds, and rests on the underside of, a horizontal sheet web under overhanging masses of rock or soil such as are often present in road cuttings. The overall appearance of a typical stiphidiid is quite similar to that of a lycosid except that it has two rows of four normal-sized eyes rather than the pair of large forward-facing eyes that a wolf spider has and it also has comparatively longer and thinner legs.
6D. Tetragnathidae: The members of this family are sometimes referred to as long-jawed or four-jawed spiders, which explains the 'tetra-' part of the family name. There are many common Australian Tetragnatha species and these have a pair of very large chelicerae, each equipped with strong teeth on their inside edges, as well as long and slender reflexed fangs. On the males the palps are also unusual in being very long slender rods with the small bulb of the mating apparatus at the end. However, there are also some other common tetragnathid species in Australia, the best example being Leucauge dromedaria, a distinctively patterned spider that is very common in suburban gardens where it rests on a near-vertical orb web in low shrubs with its underside facing outwards. None of these other tetragnathid species have the massive 'jaws' of the genus Tetragnatha.
6E. Uloboridae: There are only a few Australian genera that belong in this family and most of them are actually quite common yet remain unnoticed by the general public except perhaps for those who are keen gardeners. The reasons for this are that they are small and quite well camouflaged and are prone to spinning small sheet webs within in low bushes where their presence is not easily detected. Uloborus barbipes and Philoponella congregabilis have bodies with rugged outlines and colours to match the surfaces they normally rest on, and Miagrammopes species, most often seen in dense forests, spin just a single strand of silk and lie along it, their long slender bodies and fore-and-aft leg posture making them look like a small piece of dead twig. Even the egg sacs of Uloborus barbipes and Zosis geniculatus are deceptively star-shaped. Perhaps because their camouflage is so good uloborids have no need to possess venom glands but can efficiently grasp their prey in their strong front pairs of legs and wrap them up in threads from their plate-like abdominal silk glands.
7. Spiders normally hiding in a retreat that is not part of a suspended web
7A. Cheiracanthiidae: The most common Australian genus in this family, which was formerly the Eutichuridae, is Cheiracanthium which looks very similar to a clubionid and was once considered to belong in the Clubionidae. However, on females the chelicerae do not project forward as prominently as they do on a clubionid. In addition, Cheiracanthium prefers to make a retreat in one or more curled up green leaves rather than under loose bark.
7B. Clubionidae: Clubiona is presently the only genus within this family that the general public are likely to find in their gardens or in bush settings. It has an oval cephalothorax and a somewhat longer, tapered abdomen with minimal markings on its upper surfaces. The typical colour of both body and legs varies from pink-orange through to fawn or grey, the abdomen tending to be paler than the cephalothorax. Its relatively strong legs are all of nearly the same length and a pair of dark chelicerae project forward in front of the cephalothorax. Examples of this kind of spider will usually be found in a silken retreat formed from a bundle of leaves or constructed in a cavity under loose tree bark.
7C. Desidae: This a family that everyone who lives in a conventional Australian house is likely to have seen the web of on an outer wall or in the garden. Badumna insignis is commonly called the black house spider because of its very dark colour. It normally builds a retreat with a funnel-shaped entrance in crevices in outer walls and fences as well as under loose bark on trees. However, it does not enter houses and neither does its close relative, Badumna longinqua, a similar but brown-coloured species that prefers to construct its retreat in garden shrubs. There are also quite a few less common desid genera, including one that that lives in a seashore retreat that it has to seal every time the tide comes in. Perhaps the only other desids the general public are ever likely to see are Paramatachia tubicola, the retreat of which includes radiating silk threads leading in to holes in dead tree branches, and Phryganoporus candidus, which sometimes forms large colonial web masses in the bush.
7D. Filistatidae: The only certain Australian genus within this family is Wandella, a nocturnal spider that builds its retreat in crevices, especially under loose bark on gum trees. It is not often seen by the public because it does not enter houses but when one is discovered its comparatively large abdomen with its mottled and dimpled appearance is distinctive.
7E. Miturgidae: Miturgids are sometimes called prowling spiders because of their tendency to wander at night either on the ground or on the leaves and bark of trees. Only rarely does one enter a building of any kind. Miturga and Mituliodon are probably the genera that most people find by accident, both possessing distinctive body markings, the longitudinal stripes of Miturga being particularly noteworthy. Recently the members of the Family Zoridae were incorporated into the Miturgidae but zorids look very different and in fact were a rather heterogeneous group in the first place. Perhaps the zorid people are most likely to see is Argoctenus which has a dark forward-pointing arrow-head mark on its abdomen with some tufts of white 'bristles' on each side of it. Another very different zorid is Thasyraea, which has long slender legs and body, the latter with a pale band running its full length.
7F. Segestriidae: The most common habitat for the members of this family is a tubular retreat constructed in holes in dead wood on trees, although specimens are sometimes found living in crevices under rocks. The entrance to the burrow is typically well lined with silk and silken threads radiate out from the hole. These nocturnal hunters are all dark brown but the abdomen is not as dark as the cephalothorax and usually lacks abdominal markings. A distinctive character of the family is the fact that all legs point forward except the last pair, which point backwards. By far the most important Australian genus is Ariadna but in Victoria Gippsicola species, notable for the paired rows of darker marks on the dorsal abdomen, is another important genus.
8. Spiders normally found on or under the ground
8A. Amaurobiidae: This is a nondescript and poorly researched family and a number of genera have been moved into, or out of, the family in recent years. The best known member of the family is the Tasmanian genus Tasmarubrius, which has the general appearance of a lycosid without the pair of large forward-pointing eyes, but it must be added that at least some Oztira species do have one pair of large eyes though these point upwards or sideways rather than forward. Like wolf spiders amaurobiids may be found at ground level but probably are more commonly seen in tree bark crevices or under stones. At least a few species may may spin some webbing but more as a retreat than for catching their prey.
8B. Ammoxenidae: These are leaf litter dwellers, allegedly with a preference for termites. In Australia the main genus is Austrammo, a small spider distinguished by the presence of scale-like surface hairs that give its otherwise rather dark body a silvery sheen. Ammoxenids can be found over much of Australia but are rarely noticed by anyone other than arachnologists.
8C. Corinnidae: The Australian Corinnidae include such a diversity of types that it is hard to give a general description that is valid for all of them. Most have medium-sized bodies with reasonably slender legs, all of similar length and capable of making corinnids very fast runners. The carapace is somewhat flattened and rises only slightly towards the eye region. For most species the abdomen is oval but on at least some Poecilipta species it has a medial constriction that makes them more ant-like, many corinnids being ant mimics with a fondness for ants as their prey. Common genera such as Battalus, Nyssus and Nucastia have distinctive dorsal abdomen patterns while examples of the equally common genus, Leichhardteus, have several white arrowhead marks at the rear of the abdomen. Poecilipta and to a lesser extent Iridonyssus have another unusual character: a cephalothorax that is covered with tiny iridescent green spots. Most corinnids are ground hunters but are still capable of swiftly climbing tree trunks when they feel the need to do so. A few species even live under loose bark but others spend their lives in leaf litter. None have any tendency to invade houses. They use silk from their spinnerets only for retreat and egg sac construction, relying on their speed to capture their prey.
8D. Dysderidae: This is a very easy family to describe because there is only one member in Australia and this is Dysdera crocata which has been introduced from Europe. Is appearance is distinctive with cephalothorax, chelicerae and legs all a strong orange red colour and a large abdomen that lacks any patterning and is a pale fawn colour. Its trivial name is woodlouse hunter because it lives on slaters (woodlice) that are sometimes present in large numbers in decaying leaf litter. D. crocata is presumed to be a ground-dweller with no need to spin silk to catch its prey because it has very large and strong chelicerae and fangs. Only very very rarely does a specimen of this spider blunder into someone's house.
8E. Gallieniellidae: This is another family of leaf litter spiders and there are a number of Australian genera, including Meedo, Neato and Oreo. They all are reasonably similar in overall appearance, having a shiny black cephalothorax, matt black abdomen and legs that are mainly black but with some uncoloured sections. Very little is known about their natural history, including where they lay their eggs.
8F. Gnaphosidae: This is a family that is very well represented in Australia but its taxonomy has been sadly neglected for some reason. Gnaphosids have bodies and legs like those of an 'average' spider such as a lycosid and their one critically important characteristic is the presence of cylindrical spinnerets that extend far enough from the abdomen to be visible from above. This feature is not unique to the Gnaphosidae but the couple of other families that have it have other characteristics that distinguish them from a 'true' gnaphosid. All members of this family are nocturnal ground hunters, relying on speed rather than a web to capture their prey. The gnaphosid genera most likely to be found by members of the public are probably Eilica (a sometimes colourful genus) and Anzacia which is rather similar in appearance to an ammoxenid.
Until mid-2018 the Prodidominae was a separate family found widely across Australia mainly in the leaf litter of open forests rather than rainforests. There are many genera, Molycria being one of the most common, and the anatomical feature that is diagnostic for them is the presence of a pair of very long spinnerets which are attached well forward on the ventral abdomen. It is claimed that this kind of spider feeds exclusively on ants and apparently silk from these long spinnerets is vital for subduing their prey.
8G. Lycosidae: The Lycosidae are often referred to as wolf spiders, though the justification for this is dubious. In Australia they are represented by many genera and can be found in nearly all possible habitats from seashores to the arid inland. Virtually everyone has at least a few in their backyard, notably members of the very common Venatrix genus, and on rare occasions one may even be found on an inside floor, though no genera ever establish colonies there. Lycosids are often difficult to identify because the markings on their upper surfaces can be quite variable even within a single species. They are ground spiders and use holes in the ground as their retreats, catching their prey either by waiting at the top of the burrow or by wandering around at ground level. They are fast runners and often disguise the burrow entrance either by placing a door on top or by locating the burrow under the leaves of grasses or weeds. A notable and very common exception to this is Venonia, which usually constructs round, flat-funnel-shaped webs in lawns and rests on top of the web but dashes underground whenever a potential threat approaches them. In the evenings large lycosids such as Tasmanicosa godeffroyi can sometimes be detected at the top of their burrows because they have one pair of large, forward-facing eyes that reflect the light of a torch. Another apparently unique characteristic of female wolf spiders is to drag their spherical egg sacs around attached to their spinnerets then to have their bodies completely obscured by their newly hatched spiderlings, which they carry until the young spiders disperse spontaneously.
8I. Trochanteriidae: Most of the Trochanteriidae live in habitats where the general public are unlikely to notice them. However, the most notable exception is the Morebilus/Rebilus group of species, which have somewhat flattened and crablike bodies and legs because their normal habitat is in crevices under stones and loose tree bark. Statistically, Morebilus species seem to be the trochanteriids that most often are present in or around houses where people will notice them. Some more reclusive genera such as Trachycosmus and Desognaphosa have more rounded bodies becuse they tend to live in dense forest environments and a few trochanteriids are almost never noticed because they have adapted to life in semi-arid localities. It is not easy for a non-expert to recognize a trochanteriid because so many of them have a nonedscript appearance and some are similar in appearance to certain members of the Gnaphosidae. The family name was derived from the belief that the trochanter (the second segment outwards from the body) of Leg IV is considerably longer than on the other three pairs of legs. However, this is not really true for many trachanteriids, the best example of it being on Tinytrema species, which the public almost never see.
8J. Zodariidae: Zodariids in Australia belong to a large range of genera and are common ground spiders in most parts of the country. They rarely enter houses and, although they are by no means rare, they do not dig obvious burrows so specimens are usually found by accident when they choose to wander at ground level in search of prey. While the overall body and leg appearance of a zodariid is quite similar to that of a lycosid there are some important differences. On a wolf spider there is a horizontal row of four small eyes, two large eyes facing forwards, and the last two eyes well back on the sides of the cephalothorax. On the other hand, most of the zodariid genera have a flattened circle of six average-sized eyes with a small pair in the centre and none of the eyes provide the distance vision of a lycosid. There is a great deal of variation in the appearance of each of the zodariid genera but most have dark bodies with a smoothly domed cephalothorax and an abdomen that possesses a pattern of pale dots, lines or chevrons that are unique to the individual species. The Asteron complex probably has the greatest number of genera and species but there are also plenty of Habronestes species and also many common Storena/Neostorena species.
9. Spiders that may be found almost anywhere
9A. Salticidae: This is an enormous family worldwide and is probably the one with the greatest number of Australian species. It would take a large amount of space to describe and show images of all of the salticid genera that occur in this country so the emphasis in what follows will be on those genera that people often find in and around their homes or in gardens or bushland that is near enough for the accidental discovery of specimens. The genera that are mentioned here will at least give an indication of the variety of salticids that exist in Australia.
The one character that is present on all salticid genera is their eye arrangement which involves a pair of forward-facing and very large anterior median eyes (AME). a small pair of eyes lateral to them, and two pairs of posterior eyes well back along the cephalothorax. The large AME give a salticid the ability to see potential prey or threats at quite a distance and their strong legs allow them to jump remarkably far when they need to. Their body shape actually varies with the habitat they prefer, genera like Hypoblemum, Helpis and Sandalodes having relatively erect bodies because they hunt on house walls whereas Holoplatys and Myrmarachne are flattened so they can hide under loose bark. Body patterning and bright colours are seen on quite a few salticids, notably Mopsus mormon, which lives on green plants, the Cosmophasis species of Northern Australia, and the common garden spider, Euryattus bleekeri. Some salticids, notably including Opisthoncus species, build small retreats in green leaves so they are always very close to any insect that happens to venture onto those leaves. And finally, special mention must be made of the many Maratus species that can be found all over Australia. These are small spiders and the females are hard to see because they are a drab brown-grey colour but the males all have brightly and uniquely coloured abdominal patterns and a tendency to wave at least one of their legs vertically as a courting gesture whenever they detect a female of that species nearby.
9B. Theridiidae: The set of theridiid images below illustrate the fact that the Australian Theridiidae vary greatly both in appearance and in preferred habitat. Only a few species are prone to adopt human habitations as places to live in permanently, one of the best examples being Parasteatoda tepidariorum, which often builds untidy webs under furniture left on patios and verandas. The redback spider, Latrodectus hasseltii, rarely enters buildings but very often lives in a web and retreat under external ledges and pot plant rims and in low garden shrubbery. Steatoda grossa is another black theridiid that occasionally is found around houses and is sometimes confused with a redback spider because it can also have an almost globular and very dark abdomen although it usually has some visible markings but never the red dorsal stripe and ventral 'hourglass' marks that characterize the abdomen of an adult female redback spider. And finally, brief mention should be made of Nesticodes rufipes, a small red and brown spider that often builds its webs under the rims of wheelie bins and outside furniture.
Some theridiids don't bother to build their own insect trapping web but instead use that of a larger spider. For example, Argyrodes antipodianus (the so-called dewdrop spider) is very small and has a silvery abdomen that reflects light like a water droplet. This disguise allows it to rest on the edge of a large araneid web, feeding on very small insects that have been caught in the web but are too small for the araneid to bother with. On the other hand, Argyrodes gracilis and Ariamnes colubrinus (the whip spider) have such a bizarre shapes that they are perfectly camouflaged even when fully exposed.
Many theridiid genera occupy habitats in vegetation. The genera Cryptachaea, Theridion and Nihonhimea all have a more-or-less 'conventional' body shape although with a more nearly globular abdomen, strong and reasonably long front legs that are often retracted over the cephalothorax in a manner that is typical of so many of the araneids, and soft but spherical egg sacs. They usually build a small tangled web/retreat in forks of dead twigs or the trunks of smaller trees. Many theridiid genera have colourful abdominal patterns and this is even more pronounced in the case of genera such as Theridula and Thwaitesia which are happy to rest on green leaves. But even theridiids like Euryopis, Janula and Moneta that live on or under bark on trees use bizarre body shapes, surface patterning and brownish colours to provice camouflage.
Finally, it must be mentioned that many theridiid genera are so small they can live permanently in masses of leaf litter that have become trapped above ground and are detected only by an expert arachnologist. Phoroncidia is a good example of this kind of spider and is noteworthy because of its very tall and somewhat corrugated abdomen.
10,11. THE MINOR FAMILIES
Included in the following two sections are spider families that the general public will very rarely, if ever, see specimens of.
10. This first group are spiders that may be large enough to be seen easily but are comparatively rare in Australia:
10A. Agelenidae: These are moderate in size and lycosid-like but with different eye arrangements. They tend to be brown-grey in colour with several abdominal chevrons. They build tangled webs, occasionally inside houses. The best example of this probably is Tegenaria domestica, but this is a rare event in most parts of Australia.
10B. Anyphaenidae: Anyphaenids such as the Tasmanian species Amaurobioides littoralis are moderately large nocturnally active spiders that live in shoreline retreats along Southern Australia and Tasmania. They are somewhat like the Desidae but have a dark cephalothorax with strongly forward-pointing chelicerae and a lighter coloured abdomen with some evidence of dark chevrons.
10C. Austrochilidae: There is only one Australian member of this family, Hickmania troglodites, which as its name suggests is also known as the Tasmanian cave spider. It has the body shape and long, thin legs of many members of the Family Pholcidae but makes a cribellate (lacy) sheet web. On rare occasions this species even spins its web under houses that are not built at ground level.
10D. Cithaeronidae: Only one example of this family, Cithaeron praedonius, is recorded for Australia and even this is known only from the Darwin to Roper River region of the Northern Territory. The cithaeronid body consists of an almost circular cephalothorax, an oval but pointed abdomen, and very long, thin and tapering legs. All parts of the spider are a pale pink-brown colour. In those places where they are present they are often seen as nocturnal hunters on house walls.
10E. Ctenidae: Though there are numerous ctenid species in other parts of the world the family has not spread extensively in Australia. The main genera are Amauropelma in the North Queensland rainforest areas and Leptoctenus in the Northern Territory. Ctenids resemble lycosids in general appearance but have two pairs of moderately large eyes rather than the one very large pair of a lycosid, and most Australian ctenids have banded legs. Like the Lycosidae they are mainly ground hunters.
10F. Dictynidae: These are quite small spiders that build equally small web snares in low vegetation. There are very few formally described Australian species but the typical dictynid male is recognized by the outwards bowing of the chelicerae when viewed from in front.
10G. Gradungulidae: The relatively well known Northern NSW genus Tarlina has the general appearance of a lycosid but the very long slender legs of Progradungula and some other North Queensland gradungulid genera give these a theridiid-like appearance. However, a distinguishing character that all gradungulids have is the great enlargement of one of the claws at the end of each leg, this being easy to see even on a photo taken with just a moderately good camera. Australian gradungulids tend to be found only in isolated pockets, sometimes in caves but mostly at higher altitudes.
10H. Malkaridae: The members of this family are all very small and seem to prefer dense forests where they live in moist leaf litter or on beds of living moss. Species of Anarchaea and some other genera have a high cephalothorax that rises sharply from the chelicerae to the level of the third pair of legs then falls almost vertically. A tall abdomen, highest in front is also present. On the other hand, Perissopmeros species do not have such high body profiles but have their eyes on a quite large, bizarrely shaped tubercle and an abdomen that appears almost concertina-like. Curiously, one of the most common Australian malkarid species is the moss spider, Malkara loricata, which has a more conventionally shaped body but with an abdomen that is completely covered with tiny dark spots called pustules.
11I. Nesticidae: There is only one described Australian member of this family: Nesticella chillagoensis, a very small species found in forests, swampa and caves in the Chillagoe area of North Queensland. The body of this spider is not particularly unusual in appearance but all of the legs are covered in strong, erect, and serrated bristles.
10J. Orsolobidae: This is a family of mostly small spiders found in leaf litter or under bark in tropical and temperate rainforests. At present only three Australian genera are described: Hickmanolobus, Tasmanoonops and Cornifalx. They have reasonably conventional body and leg shapes although the cephalothorax is somewhat flattened and the oval abdomen sometimes has chevrons.
10K. Psechridae: Only two psechrid genera are believed to be present in Australia and they differ greatly in appearance. Fecenia has a moderate-sized, slender body and very long legs, the first two pairs being particularly long and often retracted over the body. On the other hand. Psechrus has a more 'normal' body shape and legs that are not as long as those of Fecenia. Both spin what looks like a poorly constructed suspended orb web attached to a rolled leaf retreat and both are only known to be in North Queensland rainforests.
10L. Sicariidae: Sicariid species are almost unknown in Australia, the only certain example being Loxosceles rufescens, which is occasionally found around Adelaide. Loxosceles species have been assigned the trivial name of brown recluse spider, presumably because they have a brown colour and a tendency to hide in crevices in and around houses. Another widely used name for them is fiddleback spiders because they have on the cephalothorax a dark mark shaped like a violin with the broad end just behind the six eyes and the narrow end pointing backwards as far as the fovea. There is not much else that is remarkable about the body of this spider but Loxosceles species have a fearsome reputation in North America as being capable of giving bites that lead to large and long-lasting skin ulcers. At least in Australia this risk seems to be minimal.
10M. Stenochilidae: The very rare stenochilid genus Colopea is suggested to be present, but extremely rare, on the Cape York peninsula. It is a moderate sized spider with an orange-brown oval abdomen and a semi-translucent diamond-shaped cephalothorax. There is no evidence that any other stenochilid species exist in this country.
11N. Zoropsidae: This is yet another spider family that few non-experts ever find in Australia although adults of at least some of the known species are moderately large. The reason for this seems to be that their usual habitat is leaf litter in forests. In fact they may be seen more often than many people realize but are misidentified as a lycosid, miturgid or even a pisaurid because they have some similarities in general appearance with all of these. Kilyana hendersoni is probably the zoropsid most often included in spider books and websites but the family also includes several other genera, AustrotengellaMegateg, and Huntia all containing several described species.
11. This second group contains spiders that may or may not be common in Australia but are always too small or too well hidden to be noticed by the non-expert:
11A. Anapidae: The most obvious features of the Australian anapids is a strongly arched head region on a short cepahalothorax and an abdomen that typically is a somewhat flattened spherical shape that slopes upwards in front to almost overhang the rear of the cephalothorax. Anapids such as Chasmocephalon are very small rainforest spiders that build a tiny tent-like web and Micropholcomma species are examples of the many anapids that live in crevices within caves.
11B. Archaeidae: The main thing that will impress anyone seeing an archaeid for the first time is that the cephalothorax is long but rises almost vertically with the eyes at the top and the chelicerae and fangs pointing downwards in front. Archaeids are often called pelican spiders because that is what this bizarre cephalothorax shape makes them look like. The abdomen on a typical archaeid is also arched and is very 'lumpy'. These characteristics, their small size, and their mottled brown-grey colour give them excellent camouflage. They have no need to build a web of any kind to catch their prey and are most often found resting quietly on bark or beds of moss in rainforest locations.
11C. Hahniidae: These are very small spiders that mostly live in leaf litter or under loose bark and use small and delicate sheet webs to catch their prey. There is nothing particularly unusual about their body shape or leg orientations but one feature that is noteworthy is that all of their spinnerets are arranged in a fan-like row across the rear of the abdomen. The reason for this appears not to be known. Very few studies of the Australian Hahniidae have been carried out so not many individual species have been described but most of the named ones seem to be Alistra species.
11D. Liocranidae: Once again these are very small spiders that are usually found in dense forests in Northern Australia but have not flourished in this country. Indeed, the only Australian examples appear to be one Oedignatha species and one Liparochrysis species and even these may eventually be moved to other families. Liocranids have spiny front legs but otherwise have a 'conventional' body shape.
10E. Mysmenidae: These are very small spiders that are described as leaf litter spiders yet can also be found on moist moss and green leaves. Their cephalothorax and legs are somewhat similar to those of the Anapidae but they have uniformly large translucent eyes and their abdomens are distinctly different. On Trogloneta specimens the abdomen stands almost vertically behind the cephalothorax with the spinnerets at the top but pointing backwards. Surprisingly, the abdomen of the other known Tasmanian mysmenid genus, Mysmena, is just as tall but has its spinnerets at the bottom. Some mysmenids are known to construct small tangled but tentlike webs but the reason for this web shape is uncertain.
10F. Ochyroceratidae: At least in Australia this does not deserve to be called a family because there is just one described species, Theotima minutissima, which is only a millimetre long. It lives in leaf litter or under stones or fallen logs and catches its prey in a small irregular web.
11G. Oonopidae: In Australia there are many oonopid species spread across quite a few genera, Opopaea, Orchestina and Ischnothyreus being among the most important. All are only about 2 mm long and live in leaf litter or even above ground in rainforest environments. Perhaps their most noteworthy character is the presence of dorsal and ventral abdominal scutes (thin but stiff plates) that make the abdomen of a species like Xestaspis loricata look like a flower bud or seed pod that is just starting to split open.
11H. Periegopidae: At present there is only one known Australian species, Periegops australia, which looks superficially similar to some of the Anyphaenidae. Very little information about this spider is available.
11I. Physoglenidae: This very small family has only two or three Australian genera, each with very few described species. Perhaps the best example is Calcarsynotaxus, which has a body and legs that are similar to those of a theridiid such as the redback spider. Physoglenids mostly live on irregular sheet webs in cooler forest areas.
11J. Symphytognathidae: These small spiders are characterised by a sharply rising cephalothorax with quite large semitranslucent eyes on top plus a larger oval abdomen that lies obliquely over the rear of the carapace. The main species are Anapistula and Symphytognatha. These prefer moist forest settings and catch their prey with a small orb web.
11K. Tetrablemmidae: This kind of spider is most unusual in that its cephalothorax seems to be covered in tiny uniform tiles and is raised but with a square profile and either 4 eyes or none at all. The abdomen, which partly overlies the cephalothorax, has the appearance of a concertina. Most species live in leaf litter or soil in rainforest locations.
11L. Theridiosomatidae: There are two described Australian theridiosomatid genera, Theridiosoma and Baalzebub, both of which prefer humid habitats, including cave entrances. They have a somewhat arched cephalothorax and a nearly globular abdomen and Theridiosoma also has the unique habit of spinning a cone-shaped web that it can tension then release to capture any prey that comes near.
11M. Trachelidae: This is another rather dubious family, at least in the Australian context, the main example being Orthobula, a small, nondescript forest spider that over the years has been moved from family to family because it doesn't seem to fit any of them.
Email Ron Atkinson for more information. Last updated 30 August 2021.