Spiders Alive! Returns to the American Museum of Natural History main content.

Spiders Alive! Returns to the American Museum of Natural History

Spiders Alive
Spiders Alive!
©AMNH/R. Mickens

 

Back by popular demand at the American Museum of Natural History, Spiders Alive! is a comprehensive look at the fascinating and complex world of arachnids. Among the exhibition’s live animals are 16 species of spiders, two species of scorpion, a chemical-spewing vinegaroon, and several long-legged tailless whip spiders—which aren’t spiders at all.

The Museum, which has the world’s largest research collection of spiders, has been at the forefront of studying spider diversity for over 75 years. In Spiders Alive!, visitors will explore spider anatomy, diversity, venom, silk, and encounter little known behaviors such as mimicry and noisemaking. In addition to live spiders, the exhibition features videos, fossils, and larger-than-life models, including a huge, climbable trapdoor spider. Museum staff will handle live arachnids for visitors to see up close, and the exhibition will focus on debunking spider myths like their needing gravity to build webs, that they all neglect their offspring, and that all spiders are dangerous to humans. 

Spiders have inspired storytellers from Ovid to E. B. White to the creators of the eponymous superhero, but their actual role in diverse ecosystems around the globe is just as captivating. Spiders are important predators: without them, insect populations would explode. By one estimate, the spiders on one acre of woodland alone consume more than 80 pounds of insects a year. Scientists have identified over 45,300 species of spiders to date, and they believe that there are at least as many yet to be discovered.

Among the live spiders visitors will encounter in this exhibition is the goliath bird eater, one of the largest spiders in the world. Including leg span, this spider measures about 12 inches long, or about the size of a dinner plate, and preys on snakes, mice, and frogs. Other species include the black widow, a member of one of the few North American spider groups that can be harmful to people; the fishing spider, which senses prey by resting its front legs on the surface of the water; and the golden orb-web spider, which weaves a golden web that can reach more than 3 feet in diameter.

Species from other arachnid orders will also be on display, including tailless whip spiders, whose whip-like feelers, up to 10 inches in length, help the animal find its way; the giant vinegaroon, which can spray a foul-smelling vinegar-like chemical from its abdomen if disturbed; and the desert hairy scorpion, the largest scorpion native to America. The exhibition will close on November 29, 2015.

           

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