Araneae: Morphology & Physiology
The body of a spider is divided into two regions, cephalothorax and abdomen, attached by a narrow pedicel. The cephalothorax is sclerotized with dorsal and ventral plates, and bears the eyes, mouthparts, legs, pedipalps, and stomach. The abdomen is usually soft and unsclerotized, and contains the primary reproductive organs, respiratory system, heart, intestine, anus, silk glands, and spinnerets.
Spiders are one of several arthropod lineages to have evolved silk independently. But spiders are unusual in their use of silk throughout their lives. Silk is a protein fiber known for both strength and elasticity. Spiders use silk to construct complex snares involved in hunting, to line burrows, protect developing eggs, as an airborne transportation device (ballooning), to transfer sperm from the testes to the pedipalp prior to mating, and other functions. Spiders may make several different types of silk, each with physical properties suited to particular tasks.
Although spider bites are widely feared, few species are dangerous to humans. Medically important spiders include widow spiders (genus Latrodectus), members of the family Sicariidae (including the brown recluse spider), the Brazilian wandering spiders (genus Phoneutria), and the Sydney funnel web (genus Atrax).
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