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white-tailed spider

OLogy Series
animal
card
160

white-tailed spider

OLogy Series
animal

Not all spiders spin webs to catch their meals. When night falls in Australia, the white-tailed spider hunts its prey on foot. This spider sneaks up on small insects or other spiders and sinks its fangs into them, injecting paralyzing venom. The white-tailed spider's bite, while deadly to its prey, is not lethal to humans.

Spider-Snatching Gear
Sure, catching spiders in your bathroom is easy. But collecting them in the wild is more of a challenge and requires some special tools. Since most spiders hunt when it gets dark, collecting usually happens at night. Spider scientists (known as arachnologists) wear lamps on their heads so they can find eight-legged creatures in the dark. Some arachnids
like tarantulas and scorpions glow bluish-green when a black light is held over them. Another useful tool is an aspirator, a long rubber tube with a stopper in a plastic vial. Scientists put an aspirator over a spider they want to catch, then suck on the top of the tube. One problem that scientists have when using an aspirator is that they usually collect lots of dust instead of spiders. This happens because the small screen that covers the tube can pull in any tiny particle in its way.

Which of the following is one of the white-tailed spider's favorite hiding places?

in clothes left on the floor

in hermit crab shells

in the pouches of kangaroos

Are you right?

Correct!

The white-tailed spider doesn't make a permanent home. At night, it roams around for food. During the day, it finds dark hiding places, including under tree bark, under rocks, and in clothes left on the floor.

The white-tailed spider gets its name from the fact that it has a white spot on the tip of its abdomen.

Fact
or
Fiction
?

Fact

If you live in Australia, and a spider with a white dot on its abdomen runs across your foot, then you've just been run over by a white-tailed spider!

white-tailed spider
Scientific name: Lampona cylindrata
Size: about one inch long
Diet: small insects
Habitat: lives under rocks and leaves, in tree bark
in the woods, and in gardens throughout Australia
Characteristics: feeds only at night; has striped legs and a white spot on the tip of its abdomen
Significance: helps control insect populations

Image credits: courtesy of AMNH.