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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Grossi, B., Veloso, C., Taucare-Ríos, A. & Canals, M. (2016):
Allometry of locomotor organs and sexual size dimorphism in the mygalomorph spider Grammostola rosea (Walckenaer, 1837) (Araneae, Theraphosidae). Journal of Arachnology . 44 (1): 99-102.


Lipke, E., Hammel, J., Michalik, P. (2015):
First evidence of neurons in the male copulatory organ of a spider (Arachnida, Araneae). Biology Letters. 11: 20150465 Website.


Michalik, P., Ramirez, M. J. (2014):
Evolutionary morphology of the male reproductive system, spermatozoa and seminal fluid of spiders (Araneae, Arachnida) – current knowledge and future directions.. Arthropod Structure & Development. 43: 291-322 Website.


Hemm V., Höfer H. (2012):
Effects of grazing and habitat structure on the epigeic spider fauna in an open xerothermic area in southern Germany. Bulletin of the British Arachnological Society. 15: 260-268


Dunlop, J.A., Penney, D., Daluege, N., Jaeger, P., McNeil, A., Bradley, R., Withers, P.J. (2011):
Tomography recovers data from historical amber: an example from huntsman spiders. Naturwissenschaften. 98 (6): 519-527


Frisch, L., Eggers, I., Jaeger, P. (1999):
Ophthalmia nodosa durch die Haare einer Vogelspinne. 97. Jahrestagung der Deutschen Opthalmologischen Gesellschaft. 1999 DOI: http://www.dog.org/1999/abstract99/603.html
Metzner, H. (1999):
Die Springspinnen (Araneae, Salticidae) Griechenlands. Andrias. 14: 1-279


Dunlop, J. A. (1992):
The pedicel, a function at last? . Newsletter of the British arachnological Society. 65: 5-6