Spiders: Facts & Types

Instructor: Amanda Robb
In this lesson, we'll be exploring the creepy world of spiders. Although we think of spiders as only web makers in the forest, there are actually many types of spiders. Here, we'll look at some of the most interesting types of spiders around the world.

What Are Spiders?

Picture a hairy monster. With eight long legs and poisonous fangs, it lies in wait for prey to become snared in its trap, unable to escape. The monster injects enzymes and a concoction of chemicals into its prey, liquefying it before slurping it up like a slushy.

This description might sound like a horror movie, but it quite accurately describes the life of spiders. Spiders are arachnids with eight legs, two body segments, and a highly evolved use of silk. Although many spiders use silk webs to catch prey, not all do. Today, we're going to learn about this diverse group of animals by exploring several unique types of spiders.

Jumping Spiders

Many of us are uncomfortable when a spider makes its way into our home. We can at least take comfort that they cannot jump or fly right onto us. Unfortunately, though, this assumption is not true, and many spiders have the ability to jump great distances compared to their body size. Jumping spiders range from just 2 to 22 millimeters and are defined by their jumping abilities. They are often brightly colored, and many of the 5,000 species make a home in the tropics.

However, some have a more extreme view of what home should be. The Himalayan jumping spider lives at altitudes of up to 22,000 feet. The oxygen content at that altitude is less than half of what it is at sea level, and few organisms can survive the extreme conditions. This tiny spider relies on winds to blow them insects from lower altitudes.

Many people enjoy the bright colors of peacocks. Their iridescent green feathers and elaborate patterns have been a source of inspiration for many. But peacocks aren't the only ones with bright colors. The peacock jumping spider is actually quite beautiful and far from its drab brown cousins, even though it is slightly smaller than a thumbtack. With striking colors in all shades of blue, red, yellow, green and everything in between, male peacock spiders are a sight to behold.


A male peacock spider
peacock spider


During courtship, they extend their ornate abdominal flaps to females engaging in a complex courtship dance to wow her. But, if the female isn't impressed she might attack and eat her suitor. However, sometimes the girl is worth the risk especially when it comes to passing down your genes in the animal kingdom.

Burrowing Spiders

Not all spiders can be patient to sit and wait for prey to wander into their home like we typically see. Burrowing spiders are ground dwelling spiders that actively track down prey and pounce on them, much like lions or wolves. Although they do make a home of silk in a ground burrow, they do not spin webs to capture prey like other spiders do.

One notable example is the wolf spider, named for its wolf-like behavior in hunting prey. There are 175 different species of wolf spiders, which live in North America and Europe. These brown spiders come out of their silk-lined burrows at night to chase down prey at striking speeds. These spiders are small, with a body of only about one inch long and legs of the same size.

Unfortunately for arachnophobes, not all burrowing spiders are so small. The Goliath bird-eater is about the size of a dinner plate, with a leg span of 11 inches. This burrowing spider lives in the tropical rainforests of South America in silk-lined burrows like the smaller wolf spider. It lives up to its name, eating any animals smaller than it including mammals, birds, and reptiles.


The Goliath bird-eater is an enormous burrowing spider
Goliath bird-eater


Web-Building Spiders

Web-building spiders are the most classic of all spiders. Assuming they don't give you the chills, spider webs can be quite beautiful. Silk is one of the strongest materials on Earth, and for years scientists have not been able to replicate its properties.

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