Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Tarantula


Spiders are an important animal group, with a long history. Details of their origins remain limited, with little knowledge of their stem group, and no insights into the sequence of character acquisition during spider evolution. We describe a new fossil arachnid,Idmonarachne brasierigen. et sp. nov. from the Late Carboniferous (Stephanian,ca305-299 Ma) of Montceau-les-Mines, France. It is three-dimensionally preserved within a siderite concretion, allowing both laboratory- and synchrotron-based phase-contrast computed tomography reconstruction. The latter is a first for siderite-hosted fossils and has allowed us to investigate fine anatomical details. Although distinctly spider-like in habitus, this remarkable fossil lacks a key diagnostic character of Araneae: spinnerets on the underside of the opisthosoma. It also lacks a flagelliform telson found in the recently recognized, spider-related, Devonian-Permian Uraraneida. Cladistic analysis resolves our new fossil as sister group to the spiders: the spider stem-group comprises the uraraneids andI. brasieri While we are unable to demonstrate the presence of spigots in this fossil, the recovered phylogeny suggests the earliest character to evolve on the spider stem-group is the secretion of silk. This would have been followed by the loss of a flagelliform telson, and then the ability to spin silk using spinnerets. This last innovation defines the true spiders, significantly post-dates the origins of silk, and may be a key to the group’s success. The Montceau-les-Mines locality has previously yielded a mesothele spider (with spinnerets). Evidently, Late Palaeozoic spiders lived alongside Palaeozoic arachnid grades which approached the spider condition, but did not express the full suite of crown-group autapomorphies.

Concepts: Arthropod, Phylogenetics, Clade, Phylum, Arachnid, Spider, Chelicerata, Tarantula


In this paper more than 50 incidences of bats being captured by spiders are reviewed. Bat-catching spiders have been reported from virtually every continent with the exception of Antarctica (∼90% of the incidences occurring in the warmer areas of the globe between latitude 30° N and 30° S). Most reports refer to the Neotropics (42% of observed incidences), Asia (28.8%), and Australia-Papua New Guinea (13.5%). Bat-catching spiders belong to the mygalomorph family Theraphosidae and the araneomorph families Nephilidae, Araneidae, and Sparassidae. In addition to this, an attack attempt by a large araneomorph hunting spider of the family Pisauridae on an immature bat was witnessed. Eighty-eight percent of the reported incidences of bat catches were attributable to web-building spiders and 12% to hunting spiders. Large tropical orb-weavers of the genera Nephila and Eriophora in particular have been observed catching bats in their huge, strong orb-webs (of up to 1.5 m diameter). The majority of identifiable captured bats were small aerial insectivorous bats, belonging to the families Vespertilionidae (64%) and Emballonuridae (22%) and usually being among the most common bat species in their respective geographic area. While in some instances bats entangled in spider webs may have died of exhaustion, starvation, dehydration, and/or hyperthermia (i.e., non-predation death), there were numerous other instances where spiders were seen actively attacking, killing, and eating the captured bats (i.e., predation). This evidence suggests that spider predation on flying vertebrates is more widespread than previously assumed.

Concepts: Bat, Spider, Mygalomorphae, Microbat, Orb-weaver spider, Tarantula, Araneomorphae, Vesper bat


More than 80 incidences of fish predation by semi-aquatic spiders - observed at the fringes of shallow freshwater streams, rivers, lakes, ponds, swamps, and fens - are reviewed. We provide evidence that fish predation by semi-aquatic spiders is geographically widespread, occurring on all continents except Antarctica. Fish predation by spiders appears to be more common in warmer areas between 40° S and 40° N. The fish captured by spiders, usually ranging from 2-6 cm in length, are among the most common fish taxa occurring in their respective geographic area (e.g., mosquitofish [Gambusia spp.] in the southeastern USA, fish of the order Characiformes in the Neotropics, killifish [Aphyosemion spp.] in Central and West Africa, as well as Australian native fish of the genera Galaxias, Melanotaenia, and Pseudomugil). Naturally occurring fish predation has been witnessed in more than a dozen spider species from the superfamily Lycosoidea (families Pisauridae, Trechaleidae, and Lycosidae), in two species of the superfamily Ctenoidea (family Ctenidae), and in one species of the superfamily Corinnoidea (family Liocranidae). The majority of reports on fish predation by spiders referred to pisaurid spiders of the genera Dolomedes and Nilus (>75% of observed incidences). There is laboratory evidence that spiders from several more families (e.g., the water spider Argyroneta aquatica [Cybaeidae], the intertidal spider Desis marina [Desidae], and the ‘swimming’ huntsman spider Heteropoda natans [Sparassidae]) predate fish as well. Our finding of such a large diversity of spider families being engaged in fish predation is novel. Semi-aquatic spiders captured fish whose body length exceeded the spiders' body length (the captured fish being, on average, 2.2 times as long as the spiders). Evidence suggests that fish prey might be an occasional prey item of substantial nutritional importance.

Concepts: Species, Predation, Order, Class, Spider, Wolf spider, Spider bite, Tarantula


Black widow spiders (Latrodectus tredecimguttatus) are poisonous spiders endemic in Turkey. Latrodectus bites may cause myocarditis with increased cardiac enzymes. We treated two men (aged 20 and 33 years) who had myocarditis after black spider bites with leucocytosis and elevated levels of troponin I, creatine kinase and creatine kinase-MB fraction. Both patients had normal results on an ECG, and one patient had abnormal echocardiography with minimal left ventricular wall movement disorder. Both patients were hospitalised in the intensive care unit and treated with intravenous fluids, analgesics, spasmolytic drugs, tetanus prophylaxis and cardiac monitoring. The levels of troponin I, creatine kinase and creatine kinase-MB fraction improved, and the patients were discharged home on the third and fifth hospital day without complications. Myocarditis after a Latrodectus bite is rare, but may be associated with serious complications. Therefore, in regions endemic with Latrodectus spiders, prudent treatment of spider bites may include cardiac evaluation and monitoring.

Concepts: Cardiology, Wolf spider, Hexathelidae, Spider bite, Tarantula, Latrodectus, Katipo, Chelicerae


Research on automatic processes in fear has emphasized the provocation of fear responses rather than their attenuation. We have previously shown that the repeated presentation of feared images without conscious awareness via backward masking reduces avoidance of a live tarantula in spider-phobic participants. Herein we investigated the neural basis for these adaptive effects of masked exposure. 21 spider-phobic and 21 control participants, identified by a psychiatric interview, fear questionnaire, and approaching a live tarantula, viewed stimuli in each of three conditions: (1) very brief exposure (VBE) to masked images of spiders, severely limited awareness; (2) clearly visible exposure (CVE) to spiders, full awareness; and (3) masked images of flowers (control), severely limited awareness. Only VBE to masked spiders generated neural activity more strongly in phobic than in control participants, within subcortical fear, attention, higher-order language, and vision systems. Moreover, VBE activated regions that support fear processing in phobic participants without causing them to experience fear consciously. Counter-intuitively, CVE to the same spiders generated stronger neural activity in control rather than phobic participants within these and other systems. CVE deactivated regions supporting fear regulation and caused phobic participants to experience fear. CVE-induced activations also correlated with measures of explicit fear ratings, whereas VBE-induced activations correlated with measures of implicit fear (color-naming interference of spider words). These multiple dissociations between the effects of VBE and CVE to spiders suggest that limiting awareness of exposure to phobic stimuli through visual masking paradoxically facilitates their processing, while simultaneously minimizing the experience of fear. Hum Brain Mapp, 2017. © 2017 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Concepts: Arthropod, Consciousness, Fear, Spider, Phobia, Spider bite, Tarantula, Claustrophobia


Some ichneumonid wasps induce modifications in the web building behavior of their spider hosts to produce resistant “cocoon” webs. These structures hold and protect the wasp’s cocoon during pupa development. The mechanism responsible for host manipulation probably involves the inoculation of psychotropic chemicals by the parasitoid larva during a specific developmental period. Recent studies indicate that some spiders build cocoon webs similar to those normally built immediately before ecdysis, suggesting that this substance might be a molting hormone or a precursor chemical of this hormone. Here, we report that Cyclosa spider species exhibiting modified behavior presented higher 20-OH-ecdysone levels than parasitized spiders acting normally or unparasitized individuals. We suggest that the lack of control that spiders have when constructing modified webs can be triggered by anachronic activation of ecdysis.

Concepts: Insect, Developmental biology, Chemical substance, Behavior, Caterpillar, Wasp, Spider, Tarantula


Venom based research is exploited to find novel candidates for the development of innovative pharmacological tools, drug candidates and new ingredients for cosmetic and agrochemical industries. Moreover, venomics, as a well-established approach in systems biology, helps to elucidate the genetic mechanisms of the production of such a great molecular biodiversity. Today the advances made in the proteomics, transcriptomics and bioinformatics fields, favor venomics, allowing the in depth study of complex matrices and the elucidation even of minor compounds present in minute biological samples. The present study illustrates a rapid and efficient method developed for the elucidation of venom composition based on NextGen mRNA sequencing of venom glands and LC-MS/MS venom proteome profiling. The analysis of the comprehensive data obtained was focused on cysteine rich peptide toxins from four spider species originating from phylogenetically distant families for comparison purposes. The studied species were Heteropoda davidbowie (Sparassidae), Poecilotheria formosa (Theraphosidae), Viridasius fasciatus (Viridasiidae) and Latrodectus mactans (Theridiidae). This led to a high resolution profiling of 284 characterized cysteine rich peptides, 111 of which belong to the Inhibitor Cysteine Knot (ICK) structural motif. The analysis of H. davidbowie venom revealed a high richness in term of venom diversity: 95 peptide sequences were identified; out of these, 32 peptides presented the ICK structural motif and could be classified in six distinct families. The profiling of P. formosa venom highlighted the presence of 126 peptide sequences, with 52 ICK toxins belonging to three structural distinct families. V. fasciatus venom was shown to contain 49 peptide sequences, out of which 22 presented the ICK structural motif and were attributed to five families. The venom of L. mactans, until now studied for its large neurotoxins (Latrotoxins), revealed the presence of 14 cysteine rich peptides, out of which five were ICK toxins belonging to the CSTX superfamily. This in depth profiling of distinct ICK peptide families identified across the four spider species highlighted the high conservation of these neurotoxins among spider families.

Concepts: Protein, Species, Peptide, Toxin, Spider, Venom, Spider bite, Tarantula


The wolf spider Lycosa tarantula returns home by means of path integration. Previous studies demonstrated: (i) that the angular component of the outbound run is measured using a polarized-light compass associated with the anterior median eyes; (ii) changes in direction of the substratum are detected by the anterior lateral eyes (ALEs); and (iii) in relation to the linear component of the outbound run, an increase of optic flow, in either the lateral or ventral fields of view, caused spiders to search for the burrow at a point nearer to the goal. However, the role of the secondary eyes [ALEs, posterior lateral eyes (PLEs) and posterior median eyes (PMEs)] in the perception of this optic flow and the importance of them for gauging the distance walked is still unknown. In this study, lateral or ventral gratings of wavelength λ=1 cm were used, with two groups of spiders in each setup: (1) PLEs+PMEs covered and (2) ALEs covered. The largest reduction in the distance walked to return to the burrow was observed with the ventral grating/ALEs covered. These results show the importance of the previously neglected ALEs for the visual behavior of these spiders. The possibility of gathering information for locomotion from the three pairs of secondary eyes in the mushroom bodies is discussed.

Concepts: Spider, Wolf spider, Spider bite, Tarantula, Lycosa


Despite considerable effort, progress in spider molecular systematics has lagged behind many other comparable arthropod groups, thereby hindering family-level resolution, classification, and testing of important macroevolutionary hypotheses. Recently, alternative targeted sequence capture techniques have provided molecular systematics a powerful tool for resolving relationships across the Tree of Life. One of these approaches, Anchored Hybrid Enrichment (AHE), is designed to recover hundreds of unique orthologous loci from across the genome, for resolving both shallow and deep-scale evolutionary relationships within non-model systems. Herein we present a modification of the AHE approach that expands its use for application in spiders, with a particular emphasis on the infraorder Mygalomorphae.

Concepts: Insect, Arthropod, Phylogenetic tree, Arachnid, Biological classification, Spider, Mygalomorphae, Tarantula


The tarantula genus Sericopelma was originally defined based on male specimens, most notably lacking tibial spurs on leg I. Early female specimens were unrecognised as Sericopelma, and typically placed in Eurypelma - a dumping ground for problem specimens. The first females were only later recognised, but authors failed to adequately define female Sericopelma. Here, the holotypes of the southern-most alleged Brachypelma species, Brachypelma embrithes (Chamberlin & Ivie, 1936) and Brachypelma angustum Valerio, 1980 were examined, and finding both to possess defining characteristics of Sericopelma were transferred. The taxonomic attributes to define Sericopelma relative to Brachypelma and select other Neotropical genera are discussed, especially for females. As important diagnostic characters for Sericopelma, the single (unilobar) spermathecae swollen at the apex forming a P-shaped cross-section, metatarsus IV with trace scopula, femur IV with a dense retrolateral pad of plumose hair, plus other attributes. Some past confusion in these characters are clarified and Sericopelma relative to Brachypelma and Megaphobema mesomelas are discussed. Finally recommendations are given about these taxonomic changes for CITES regulations.

Concepts: Male, Female, Definition, Extensional definition, Sex, Spider, Brachypelma, Tarantula