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Spider taxonomy is the alpha taxonomy of the spiders, members of the Araneae order of the arthropod class Arachnida with about 40,000 described species. However there are likely many species that have escaped the human eye to this day, and many specimens stored in collections waiting to be described and classified. It is estimated that only one third to one fifth of existing species have been described.

Arachnology currently divides spiders into three suborders with about 38 superfamilies, and 111 families. Seven of the 111 families are incertae sedis, meaning that their placement into superfamilies is not agreed upon; several other families are not placed in any superfamily.

Due to constant research, with new species being discovered every month and others being recognized as synonyms, the number of species in the families is bound to change and can never reflect the present status with total accuracy. Nevertheless, the species numbers given here are useful as a guideline.

See a table of Araneae families at the end of the article with some genera and species listed for each family (only identified species are included).


Suborder Mesothelae

Digitally enhanced image of a Sphodros rufipes that shows the nearly perfectly vertical orientation of the chelicerae, a prime characteristic of the Mygalomorphae.

Mesothelae resemble the Solifugae ("wind scorpions" or "sun scorpions") in having segmented plates on their abdomens that create the appearance of the segmented abdomens of these other arachnids. They are both few in number and also limited in geographical range.

Suborder Opisthothelae

Suborder Opisthothelae contains the spiders that have no plates on their abdomens. It can be somewhat difficult on casual inspection to determine whether the chelicerae of members are of the sort that would put them into the infraorder of the mygalomorphs or the infraorder of the Araneomorphs. The spiders that are called "tarantulas" in English are so large and hairy that inspection of their chelicerae is hardly necessary to categorize one of them as a Mygalomorph. Other, smaller, members of this suborder, however, look little different from the Araneomorphs. (See the picture of the Sphodros rufipes below.) Many Araneomorphs are immediately identifiable as such since they are found on webs designed for the capture of prey or exhibit other habitat choices that eliminate the possibility that they could by Mygalomorphs.


Infraorder Mygalomorphae

Photograph showing orientation of the chelicerae of the Araneomorphae.

Spiders in infraorder Mygalomorphae are characterized by the vertical orientation of their chelicerae and the possession of four book lungs.

Infraorder Araneomorphae

Most, if not all, of the spiders one encounters in everyday life belong to infraorder Araneomorphae. It includes a wide range from the spiders that weave their beautiful orb webs in the garden, the more chaotic-looking webs of the cobweb spiders that frequent window frames and the corners of rooms, the crab spiders that lurk waiting for nectar- and pollen-gathering insects on flowers, to the jumping spiders that patrol the outside walls of a dwelling, and so on. They are characterized by having chelicerae whose tips approach each other as they bite, and (usually) having one pair of book lungs.

Some important spider families are :

These spiders are frequently seen in cellars. When light contact disturbs their web their characteristic response is to set the entire web moving the way a person would jump up and down on a trampoline. It is unclear why they cause their webs to vibrate in this way; moving their webs back and forward may increase the possibility that insects flying close by may be ensnared, or the rapid gyrations caused by the spider in its web may make the spider harder to target by predators.

Megaphobema robusta, one of the many kinds of spiders called "Tarantulas"

The family of Salticidae commonly called jumping spiders have a characteristic cephalothorax shapes, as shown in the diagram below. They have eight eyes, two of them very prominent, and excellent vision. Their maximum size is perhaps 13/16 inch (20 mm), but many species are much smaller than that. The largest North American species such as Phidippus regius, P. octopunctatis, etc., are so heavy bodied that they cannot jump far. The smaller species of jumping spider can jump many times their own body length. They hunt by first getting within range of a prey animal such as a fly, securing a silken "climbing rope" to their current perch, and then jumping onto their prey and biting it. Many seem to take unerring aim at the neck of their prey. Should they jump from one twig to another in an attempt to capture prey and miss or get knocked off the second twig by their struggling prey then they are protected from falling by their silken lifeline. At night these spiders usually retreat to a silken "puptent" that they construct for their own protection and, when needed, as a place to deposit their eggs. They are frequently seen in sunlit areas on walls, tree trunks, and other such vertical surfaces. They are perhaps the only family of spiders who will take cognizance of a human in their general area and then turn their bodies and elevate their cephalothoraxes to keep the human under observation. If approached closely, e.g., with the lens of a camera, some of them may choose to jump onto the nearby object to explore it. This behavior may be alarming but it never seems to be aggressive since these spiders are unwilling to attack prey that are very much larger than they are.

"Squared-off" cephalothorax of the jumping spiders.
Eye pattern of the jumping spiders.

Table of Families

Families listed in boldface contain one or more species which are believed to be venomous to humans.

1 <10 >=10 >=100 >=1000
Spider families (Oct 23, 2009)
Suborder Superfamily Family Genera Species Common name Example
Mesothelae Liphistiidae 5 85 segmented spiders Kimura-gumo
Mygalomorphae Mecicobothrioidea Mecicobothriidae 4 9 dwarf tarantulas
Microstigmatidae 7 15 Envia garciai
Hexatheloidea Hexathelidae 11 85 venomous funnel-web tarantulas Sydney funnel-web spider
Dipluroidea Dipluridae 24 177 funnel-web tarantulas Spruce-fir moss spider
Nemesioidea Nemesiidae 41 342 Black wishbone spider
Theraphosoidea Theraphosidae 116 909 tarantulas Goliath birdeater
Paratropididae 4 8 baldlegged spiders
Barycheloidea Barychelidae 44 300 trapdoor baboon spiders Sason sundaicum
Atypoidea Atypidae 3 43 purse web spiders Red legged purseweb spider
Antrodiaetidae 2 32 folding trapdoor spiders Atypoides riversi
Cyrtauchenioidea Cyrtaucheniidae 18 134 wafer trapdoor spiders Aptostichus simus
Idiopoidea Idiopidae 22 297 Black rugose trapdoor spider
Ctenizoidea Ctenizidae 9 117 cork-lid trapdoor spiders Cteniza sauvagesi
Migoidea Migidae 10 91 tree trapdoor spiders
Actinopodidae 3 41 Mouse spider
Araneomorphae Hypochiloidea Hypochilidae 2 11 lampshade spiders Hypochilus thorelli
Austrochiloidea Austrochilidae 7 16 Tasmanian cave spider
Gradungulidae 7 16 large-clawed spiders Carrai Cave Spider
Filistatoidea Filistatidae 17 110 crevice weavers Southern house spider
Scytodoidea Drymusidae 1 15 false violin spiders
Periegopidae 1 2
Scytodidae 5 220 spitting spiders Scytodes thoracica
Sicariidae 2 121 recluse spiders Brown recluse
Leptonetoidea Leptonetidae 15 199 leptonetid spiders Tooth cave spider
Ochyroceratidae 14 156 midget ground weavers Theotima minutissima
Telemidae 7 31 long-legged cave spiders
Pholcoidea Diguetidae 2 15 coneweb spiders
Pholcidae 80 1036 daddy long-legs spiders Daddy long-leg spider
Plectreuridae 2 29 plectreurid spiders
Caponioidea Caponiidae 13 71 Two-eyed orange spider
Tetrablemmidae 30 130 armored spiders
Dysderoidea Dysderidae 24 487 woodlouse hunter spiders Woodlouse spider
Oonopidae 73 503 dwarf hunting spiders Oonops domesticus
Orsolobidae 28 181
Segestriidae 3 110 tubeweb spiders Segestria florentina
Eresoidea Eresidae 10 94 velvet spiders Ladybird spider
Hersiliidae 12 159 tree trunk spiders Two-tailed spider
Oecobiidae 6 103 disc web spiders Oecobius navus
Archaeoidea Archaeidae 3 37 pelican spiders Assassin spider
Holarchaeidae 1 2
Mecysmaucheniidae 7 25
Micropholcommatidae 8 34
Pararchaeidae 7 34
Palpimanoidea Huttoniidae 1 1 Huttonia palpimanoides
Palpimanidae 15 131 palp-footed spiders
Stenochilidae 2 12
Mimetoidea Malkaridae 4 10 shield spiders
Mimetidae 13 152 pirate spiders Oarces reticulatus
Uloboroidea Deinopidae 4 57 net-casting spiders Rufous net-casting spider
Uloboridae 18 254 hackled orb-weaver Uloborus walckenaerius
Araneoidea Anapidae 37 147
Araneidae 167 2841 orb-weaver spiders Zygiella x-notata
Cyatholipidae 23 58
Linyphiidae 583 4297 dwarf / money spiders Blacktailed red sheetweaver
Mysmenidae 24 123 spurred orb-weavers Mysmenopsis furtiva
Nesticidae 9 195 cave cobweb spiders Nesticella marapu
Pimoidae 4 33 Pimoa altioculata
Symphytognathidae 7 56 dwarf orb-weavers Patu digua
Synaphridae 3 12
Synotaxidae 14 70
Tetragnathidae 47 912 long jawed orb-weavers Orchard orb weaver
Nephilidae 4 44 large-jawed spiders Golden orb-web spider
Theridiidae 109 2262 cobweb spiders Black widow spider
Theridiosomatidae 12 84 ray spiders Theridiosoma gemmosum
Lycosoidea Ctenidae 40 468 tropical wolf spiders Brazilian wandering spider
Lycosidae 112 2293 wolf spiders Lycosa tarentula
Oxyopidae 9 417 lynx spiders Green lynx spider
Pisauridae 53 334 nursery web spiders Fishing spiders
Psechridae 2 26
Senoculidae 1 31
Stiphidiidae 22 136 Tartarus mullamullangensis
Trechaleidae 18 97
Zoridae 14 76
Zorocratidae 5 42 zorocratid spiders
Zoropsidae 12 75 zoropsid spiders Zoropsis spinimana
Agelenoidea Agelenidae 42 508 araneomorph funnel-web spiders Hobo spider
Amphinectidae 32 159 Metaltella simoni
Amaurobioidea Amaurobiidae 74 731 tangled nest spiders Callobius claustrarius
Dictynoidea Anyphaenidae 56 508 anyphaenid sac spiders Yellow ghost spider
Cybaeidae 12 162 Water spider
Desidae 38 181 intertidal spiders Foliage webbing spider
Dictynidae 48 555 dictynid spiders Nigma walckenaeri
Hahniidae 26 236 dwarf sheet spiders
Nicodamidae 9 29
Sparassoidea Sparassidae 83 1061 huntsman spiders Avondale spider
Selenopoidea Selenopidae 5 193 wall spiders Selenops radiatus
Zodaroidea Zodariidae 75 892 zodariid ground spiders Zodarion germanicum
Tengelloidea Tengellidae 8 50 tengellid spiders
incertae sedis Chummidae 1 2
Clubionidae 14 547 sac spiders Clubiona trivialis
Cycloctenidae 5 36
Homalonychidae 1 3
Miturgidae 28 346 long-legged sac spiders Yellow sac spider
Titanoecoidea Phyxelididae 12 54
Titanoecidae 5 43 titanoecid spiders Goeldia obscura
Gnaphosoidea Ammoxenidae 4 18
Cithaeronidae 2 6
Gallieniellidae 10 48
Gnaphosidae 112 2047 flat-bellied ground spiders Drassodes lapidosus
Lamponidae 23 192 white-tailed spiders White-tailed spider
Prodidomidae 30 302 long-spinneret ground spiders Lygromma anops
Trochanteriidae 19 152
Thomisoidea Philodromidae 27 520 philodromid crab spiders Philodromus dispar
Thomisidae 173 2040 crab spiders Goldenrod spider
Salticoidea Salticidae 567 5192 jumping spiders Zebra spider
Corinnoidea Corinnidae 80 940 dark sac spiders Castianeira sp.
Liocranidae 30 166 liocranid sac spiders
3 ca. 38 109 3747 40288 Total


  • Reiskind, J. (1965). The Taxonomic Problem of Sexual Dimorphism in Spiders and a Synonymy in Myrmecotypus (Araneae, Clubionidae). Psyche 72:279-281 PDF

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