The Find-a-Spider Guide

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Find-a-spider: Frequently-Asked Questions

What is the primary purpose of this website?
This website was developed to assist people to identify spiders found in South-east Queensland without the need to take the specimens to a museum or other source of spider expertise. Please note that the author of this website does NOT claim to be an expert spider taxonomist and the information given for each spider included is not presented in the correct taxonomic fashion. Instead it is written at a level of complexity such that it should be meaningful for members of the general public. On the other hand, the site has been made as comprehensive as possible in regard to the number and variety of spider species included.

Are all Australian spider species listed here?
The primary object of this website is to provide information on spiders found in South-east Queensland but not all of the species featured are unique to Southern Queensland. Many of them actually occur widely across Australia and even in some nearby countries. It is also worth mentioning that spiders found in locations remote from Australia but that look very similar to, though perhaps not exactly the same as, some Australian species presented in this website probably will belong to the same spider family and have functional characteristics similar to those of their Australian counterparts.

NEW INFORMATION! Is the spider you have found likely to be the species you think it is?
As from January 2022 a new information line has been added to the bottom of each species page of this website. This involves a statement about the known range of the species described on that page and may be useful if you are wondering if the correct species name of a spider you have found is likely to be the one you think it is just because it looks like it could be. This is important because every country in the world has species that are unique to it and even in Australia most spider species are unevenly distributed across the country. Many are known to be present in only a relatively small part of Australia so (for example) if you live in Western Australia and the species you think you have found is recorded as only being in Eastern Australia then it probably is not that species.

WARNING: This new known range line may itself be incorrect because it will only be as accurate as the information source from which it was obtained. The reality is that family, generic and species names are frequently changing as arachnologists publish corrections following extensive reviews of individual families or genera. But even those experts will sometimes be unaware of species within that group that have never been placed in a museum collection. Disputes amongst arachnologists as to the appropriate name or placement for an individual species are not uncommon because decisions on family and generic names will always be a matter of opinion to some extent. Fortunately, many revisions these days are based on DNA analyses and in consequence revised taxonomic clades are becoming progressively more justifiable than was once the case.

The reality is that most of the spider information sources you could use to help identify a spider you have found will contain inaccuracies. This is particularly true for the internet because you don't have to be an expert to publish information there. And misidentifications of spiders are all too easy to make unless you are a highly qualified spider expert and have the spider itself to look at in laboratory conditions. Scientific websites like the one you are using right now will also contain some out-of-date information because of the speed with which arachnology is changing, and spider books that have not been published very recently will be even more prone to contain errors because they are much harder to update than spider websites. It is probably true to say that the safest source of spider taxonomy to use when trying to find the current scientific name for an individual spider species is the World Spider Catalog. This is constantly being updated as each new peer-reviewed taxonomic paper is published but it is only useful if you already know enough about the spider you are trying to identify to know where to look in the Catalog.

One last detail about these new 'known range' additions to this website is that if you use this website extensively you may notice that some places, and notably Cairns, South-east Queensland, Sydney, Adelaide, Perth, and the South-west corner of Western Australia, seem to be more likely as places for spider species to be found than anywhere else. This probably is not really true but may seem to be so because these are places with relatively high population densities and therefore are likely to have more people who will accidently or deliberately find spider specimens which they then send to museums or other spider experts. So the reality is that the actual ranges of the spider species shown in this website will almost certainly be wider than as stated on this site.

How do I go about identifying a spider?
Check out out the Spider Identification Guide for more information on how to use this website, then click on the Find-a-spider tab and choose from the options offered. Please note that these days spider identifications are based on the spider's visible surface anatomy, the shapes of its male and female genital structures, the location and habitat in which it was found and the appearance of its web, egg sacs or retreat. For many species DNA profiles are now also being used. Hence, an accurate identification of many spiders can only be made by an expert taxonomist. In addition, a large number of Australian species have yet to be formally described and for them no complete scientific name is available at the present time. A further complication is the fact that many spider families or genera have recently been, or are currently being, radically revised so many changes in scientific names and family relationships are being published each year.

How can I examine a spider without getting bitten?
If you are lucky or if the weather is cool your spider may be happy to remain motionless in a visible position while you look at it. However, if it has good vision, as is true for those spiders that have at least one pair of large eyes, it may try to hide or escape as you approach. You may then need to attempt to capture it in a suitable container. It is often possible to catch a spider that is resting on a wall by placing a clear glass jar with a wide rim over the spider and then sliding a piece of stiff paper under the rim. If the spider is in a suspended web you will often be able to position your container on one side of the web and bring in the lid from the other side. Once the spider is in the jar and the lid is secured, you can give it a close-up inspection with no risk to yourself. Most spiders are not naturally aggressive towards humans anyway and prefer to drop to the ground and hide or play dead whenever a potential predator gets too close. It is important for you to understand that there are no significantly dangerous spiders in Australia that can actually jump, although many virtually harmless salticids and oxyopids can jump short distances and some other kinds of spiders can spring sideways as they fall to the ground and many are able to climb smooth surfaces.

Why can't I find my spider anywhere on this website?
Since the focus of this guide is on the spiders of South-east Queensland, your spider may not be included on this website because is not found in or near South-east Queensland. In addition, the creator of this site has not yet managed to obtain photographs of all Australian spider species, some of which are still to be formally described and assigned a scientific name.

Why is it that in a number of instances different species have been given the same common name?
This may be true when several species have very similar appearance and behavioural characteristics and the common name given to them is based on those characteristics. For example, many species that are called trapdoor spiders live in a burrow with a door at the entrance, but on the other hand some other spiders, including mouse and a few wolf spiders, also tend to close off their burrows with a door, but these are not normally called trapdoor spiders.

I think I have just found a spider that is not already on this website. What should I do now?
The author would be pleased to look at any photographs you can take of it and attempt to provide a scientific name for it. If in fact that species is not yet on the website the photos of it may be added to the site as soon as possible but ONLY with the permission of the person who took them. Whenever this happens the photographer's name is always shown on the photo and copyright for it remains with them so the photo may not be used by any other person, including the creator of this site, for any other purpose without their further permission.

Email Ron Atkinson for more information.    Last updated 1 December 2018.