Scientists have named 30,000 species of spiders, but believe this is only about one-fourth of all the different spiders in the world. Click on the icons below to learn where spiders live, what they eat, how they hunt and how they reproduce. You can even pet a spiders in Zoobooks Virtual Zoo!
If you take the time to watch spiders, you may be surprised by what you see. There are many wonderful colors, shapes, and sizes of spiders. Some spin beautiful webs in a variety of styles such as orbs, funnels, triangles, or even messy cobwebs. Web-building spiders perform daring acrobatic feats on their thin, silk threads. Other spiders spin no webs at all. They stalk insects on the ground with all the skill and ferocity of a tiger hunting big game. Scientists have named 30,000 species of spiders, but believe this is only about one-fourth of all the different spiders in the world.
Jumping spiders not only jump a long way, they also jump very accurately. A jumping spider usually stalks an insect until it is about a foot away. Then the spider takes a giant leap and lands right on its prey. Some orb weavers will sit and wait for prey in the middle of their webs, while others hide off to the side and rush out to attack when prey arrives. Spiders have sharp fangs that inject poison, and hold prey in place with feelers called pedipalps.
The favorite food of spiders is insects—spiders are the most important predators of insects in the world. Tarantulas, however, have expanded their diet. Some are known to catch tree frogs, and some stalk small birds by trying to sneak up on them in their nests. Fishing spiders, as their name implies, can dive underwater to nab small fish, although they also take insects that have landed or fallen on the water.
Spiders begin life as tiny eggs in an egg sac. The number of eggs varies from species to species, but often there are more than 100 in a single egg sac. When it first hatches, a spiderling remains in the egg sac. Its tiny body is not completely formed, and it cannot see or move. After a few days, the spiderlings are big enough to climb out of the egg sac. In some species, these newly hatched spiders work together to build a web. This is called a nursery web. The young spiders stay on the web until they get hungry. Then they set out to find places of their own.
Spiders live with you. Because they are nearly everywhere, busy working to keep the insect population down, you have probably seen a wide variety of spiders in your home and yard. There are two species you should learn to recognize and watch out for. The brown recluse is one—it is brown, has six eyes, and a mark on the top of its cephalothorax that looks like a violin. The second is the shiny, usually black spider called the black widow. The mark to watch for on this spider is bright red and shaped like an hourglass. To be safe, don’t touch a spider if you’re not sure what kind it is.
Although some species are probably in danger due to loss of rainforest, most spiders are alive and well and going about their business just as they have for thousands of years. More and more people are taking time to watch spiders, and they are surprised by what they see. There are many wonderful colors, shapes, and sizes of spiders, and getting to see one build its web is a special treat.