Range:

Found on all continents except Antarctica

Habitat:

All habitats

Spideriffic!

Hurray for these amazing creatures! Spiders often get a bad rap, and some people are afraid of them. But only a few species are dangerous to humans, and even then they won't bite unless they feel threatened. Spiders are not insects, and they are different in many ways. For example, spiders have two body parts: the front body section, called the cephalothorax (seff-a-la-THOR-ax), and an abdomen; insects have three body parts: a head, thorax, and abdomen. Spiders have eight legs while insects have six, and, in general, spiders have "simple" eyes instead of the "compound" eyes that give many insects much better vision.

Anywhere can be home

Spider habitats range from deserts to rain forests to backyards and everything in between. There are spiders that float ON the water, such as fishing spiders, those that live UNDER the water, such as diving bell spiders, and even spiders that live as parasites on the webs of other spiders. Some species build a clever trapdoor to ambush prey, some build shared webs to snare victims, and some even keep a web handy to throw as a net over an unsuspecting fly!

Some spiders are called bird-eating spiders, but they rarely have the opportunity to eat birds, unless they stumble upon the nest of a ground-dwelling bird species.
Spiders need all eight of their legs. Luckily, if a leg is lost, the spider can regenerate a new one through several molts.
Can you imagine eating 80 pounds (36 kilograms) or more of hamburgers at every meal? Spiders can eat their own weight in one meal.
Hunting spiders have additional tufts of very dense hair called scopulae at the end of their claws. The hairs serve as a multitude of contact points for whatever terrain they encounter, which helps them climb even smooth surfaces like glass.
Lessons learned from spider-web structures are helping engineers design bridges.
A female fishing spider makes a round egg case and carries it next to her body for a month or so. When the egg case is close to hatching, she spins a nursery web of silk across plants and deposits the egg case in the middle to protect the hatchlings.
Fishing spiders are named for their habit of hanging around, and skating on top of, the water. They sit perfectly still on the surface of ponds, waiting for an insect to hit the water, then they snatch it up.
The golden-silk spider female is one of the largest of the orb-weaving spiders. True to her name, she produces silk that is golden in color.
Silver-backed spiders are commonly found in coastal areas of San Diego. The orb-shaped web they weave includes zigzag cross-strands that make the web easier to see. This may help protect it from birds that might otherwise fly into it.
Hunting spiders do not spin webs. Instead, they wait on rocks or bushes for an unsuspecting victim to pounce on.
Crab spiders get their common name from the way they walk—sideways.
Spitting spiders, as their name implies, spit wads of sticky goo at their prey. The goo glues the prey to the ground for a tasty meal.
Spider blood is pale blue, not red.
The jumping spider truly lives up to its name, clearing 100 times its own body length.

Spineless Marvels

Sometimes, the littlest things have the biggest impact. That’s the philosophy behind the Spineless Marvels exhibit in the San Diego Zoo’s Children’s Zoo. It provides a way for visitors to discover and appreciate spiders as well as scorpions and insects. Terrariums set into the walls offer a rare opportunity to marvel at these animals. Currently, you’ll find the fascinating bird-eating spider on exhibit, but different spiders rotate through the exhibit seasonally. You never know what you might find on display!

Hidden Jungle

Likewise at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, Hidden Jungle is a tropical exhibit home to the smaller and quieter critters you might miss in a rain forest, close enough for you to discover, such as birds, frogs, butterflies, and spiders. There’s a lot going on UNDER the leaves! Currently, there is a Mombasa golden starburst tarantula and a western black widow spider. The Park is expecting some new arrivals native to Africa, including horned baboon and Fort Hall baboon spiders.

Spider care

Creating and maintaining a healthy habitat for spiders takes time, patience, and intense attention to detail. Temperature and humidity are monitored and adjusted to suit each species’ preferences. And although they’re small in size, meeting a spider’s needs takes a big effort. Keepers maintain the cleanliness and safety of enclosures, feed the spiders, and make health observations just as mammal, bird, and reptile keepers do.

For every spider or other insect you see at the Zoo, there are at least 10 more behind the scenes. At any given time, the Spineless Marvels building is home to 30 to 40 arthropod species, most of which live in the containment area. The containment area has separate entrance and exit vestibules. Each is a “clean room,” with no furniture or other potential hiding places. Each is also equipped with a mirror, so that keepers can check their back to make sure no one is “hitching a ride” into the great world beyond.

Hear from our entomology experts by reading our Insect Blog.

Spiders often get a bad rap, and some people are afraid of them. But only a few species are dangerous to humans, and even they won’t bite unless they feel threatened.

Like so many animals, spiders are affected by habitat loss and by nonnative species introduced by humans that can often take over spider habitat. Some spider species threatened by international trade are protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Spiders can only be legally traded if CITES permits are obtained from the exporting country. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service occasionally brings spiders that are illegally shipped to the U.S. to the San Diego Zoo for care. The incoming spiders are given an assessment that includes measuring the leg span to approximate the size of the spider, determining gender, and recording the overall health of the animal.

Spiders are very important to the health of the ecosystem because they eat insects and other arthropods and keep their numbers in check. Spiders are also food for many animals, including humans, and tarantulas are considered a delicacy in many countries. Medical researchers are studying the chemicals in spider venom for use in treating diseases in humans. Let's hear it for spiders!