Furrow spiders are a holartic species commonly found throughout North America, from northern Mexico, throughout the United States and into Canada, as well as southern and eastern Alaska. This species is also ubiquitous throughout Europe and western Asia. Smaller distributions exist in the Korean and Kamchatka penninsulas, eastern China, and Japan, as well as in parts of Africa including northeastern Algeria and Egypt. Single records also exist from Australia, Greenland, and Iceland. (Bon, 2011; British Arachnological Society, 2013; Marusik and Koponen, 2005)
Furrow spiders are commonly found in moist areas near bodies of water or areas of dense vegetation. Man-made structures like barns, houses, and bridges also make ideal habitats for these spiders as they provide suitable coverage from the sun. (Bon, 2011; Deltshev, et al., 201; Kirindi, et al., 2005; Webber, 2002)
These orb weaving spiders have large, bulbous, oval-shaped abdomens, which are dorsoventrally flattened. The abdomen ranges in color including black, grey, red and olive, and the carapace features a lighter colored, arrow shaped pattern that points towards the cephalothorax. Their legs have a striped pattern matching the carapace and are covered in large hairs (macrosetae). The two pairs of forward legs are very long (typically equal to the entire body length) while their rear legs are shorter. Males tend to be smaller and lighter in color than females, ranging in size from 5 to 9 mm in length, while females range from 6 to 14 mm. Legspans for both sexes may range from 18 to 35 mm. (Nicholls, 2010; Prokop, 2006; Webber, 2002)
Once eggs are fertilized by the male, female furrow spiders hide their egg sacs within large web cocoons on leaves. Fertilized eggs hatch in the cocoon within a month. Hatched spiderlings remain in the protective cocoon for two to three months until they reach maturity. When they have fully matured, spiderlings disperse in search of foraging opportunities. (Bon, 2011; Howell and Jenkees, 2004; Webber, 2002)
Females furrow spiders produce a silken cocoon that can fit both male and female inside during copulation. Once it is made, females reside in this cocoon and emit pheromones, which males sense through chemoreceptors. Females carry unfertilized eggs inside the cocoon and, once inside the cocoon, males insert sperm into females using their pedipalps. Fertilized eggs, which are yellow in color, are then nested within an egg sac, which the female will place in a protected location such as the underside of a leaf. Further copulation may occur if a female has additional unfertilized eggs after mating once, provided a male is still present and protecting the hidden egg sac. Males are sometimes (but not always) killed and eaten following successive mating; regardless, they typically die soon after mating. Females die following egg laying, sometimes surviving until spiderlings have hatched from their cocoon. (Bon, 2011; Partridge, 2011; Webber, 2002)
When females are well fed, they focus on creating more eggs for reproduction rather than web construction. When food is difficult to find, no resources are put into producing unfertilized eggs or a silken cocoon for reproduction. Mating can occur from spring through fall and is usually only limited by resource availability. (Howell and Jenkees, 2004; Nicholls, 2010; Partridge, 2011; Sherman, 1994; Webber, 2002)
Before any mating or egg fertilization takes place, females create a silken retreat in a protected location where eggs will be placed. After fertilization, mating pairs coexist and protect the cocoon for a time; both parents die at some point following copulation and egg laying, although survival time varies. (Howell and Jenkees, 2004; Partridge, 2011; Sherman, 1994)
Furrow spiders are capable of surviving cold winter seasons. Although they most commonly reach maturity during the spring, they may reach maturity at any time during the year. These spiders may live up to two years. (Nicholls, 2010; Sherman, 1994; Webber, 2002)
These spiders are solitary predators who build their webs close to damp vegetation or any man-made location sheltered from the sun. Their orb webs are typically low to the ground in shrubbery or between grasses and consist of 20-25 radii. Average mesh size is 5 mm with a total area ranging from 600 to 1100 cm^2. Furrow spiders remain at the hub of their webs or in nearby shade all day. Individuals ingest their web each night, recycling silk material to rebuild daily damage. When food is scarce, these spiders may make more or larger webs in a single night, in an effort to snare more prey. When food is abundant, they more often forego continual web creation and females invest solely in creating cocoons for reproduction. (Howell and Jenkees, 2004; Nicholls, 2010; Prokop, 2006; Sherman, 1994)
These spiders are most often found on, or in close proximity to their webs, an area that ranges from 600-1100 cm^2. (Sherman, 1994)
Furrow spiders have a lower row of 6 eyes, paired horizontally across their heads, and an additional pair of eyes located directly above the center of the lower row. Females produce pheromones during mating season, which are detected by males through chemoreceptors. These spiders also are extremely sensitive to vibrations that they sense using macrosetate and filiform hairs along their legs (filiform hairs are also located on their abdomens). Small receptors called slit sensilla are arranged along their exoskeletons, detecting any pressure against their bodies. (Bon, 2011; Foelix, 2011; Partridge, 2011; Prokop, 2006; Webber, 2002)
These spiders are primarily insectivores. They use varying sizes of orb webs to capture prey during the day; prey items typically include damselflies (Platycnemis pennipes), gnats, and common mosquitoes (Culex pipiens). Like many arachnids, this species produces a venom in the anterior prosoma within a specialized gland which is connected to the chelicerae via small canals. Each chelicera has four pairs of teeth. Once snared and entangled within the orb web, furrow spiders wrap their prey in silk and immobilize it, injecting venom through their chelicerae, and transport it off the web. Digestive enzymes break down the prey's internal organs into a fluid form for consumption, leaving very little waste for excretion. Larger prey are stored in order to give digestive enzymes ample time to act. (Foelix, 2011; Prokop, 2006)
Many birds feed on these spiders, especially if they are not well hidden during the day. Larger insects such as black and yellow mud daubers (Sceliphron caementarium) are also predators of adult furrow spiders, while flesh fly larvae (Sarcophaga sexpunctata)are known predators of their egg cocoons. ("Larinioides cornutus", 2013; Araújo and Gonzaga, 2007; Kirindi, et al., 2005)
Furrow spiders are primarily predators of small insects and bugs. Their webs may keep populations of these animals in check, especially in man-made settings like barns, houses, and bridges. (Kirindi, et al., 2005)
Although venomous, these spiders only bite humans if their webs are threatened and, even then, bites are only superficial and do not typically require medical attention. There are no known adverse effects of furrow spiders on humans. (Partridge, 2011)
This species is common throughout its range and currently has no special conservation status. (IUCN, 2012)
John Gracely (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Jeremy Wright (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.
Living in Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania, New Guinea and associated islands.
living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.
living in the northern part of the Old World. In otherwords, Europe and Asia and northern Africa.
living in landscapes dominated by human agriculture.
Referring to an animal that lives in trees; tree-climbing.
having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.
an animal that mainly eats meat
uses smells or other chemicals to communicate
animals which must use heat acquired from the environment and behavioral adaptations to regulate body temperature
parental care is carried out by females
union of egg and spermatozoan
forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.
a distribution that more or less circles the Arctic, so occurring in both the Nearctic and Palearctic biogeographic regions.
Found in northern North America and northern Europe or Asia.
An animal that eats mainly insects or spiders.
fertilization takes place within the female's body
referring to animal species that have been transported to and established populations in regions outside of their natural range, usually through human action.
parental care is carried out by males
marshes are wetland areas often dominated by grasses and reeds.
Having one mate at a time.
having the capacity to move from one place to another.
the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.
active during the night
found in the oriental region of the world. In other words, India and southeast Asia.
reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.
chemicals released into air or water that are detected by and responded to by other animals of the same species
Referring to something living or located adjacent to a waterbody (usually, but not always, a river or stream).
breeding is confined to a particular season
remains in the same area
offspring are all produced in a single group (litter, clutch, etc.), after which the parent usually dies. Semelparous organisms often only live through a single season/year (or other periodic change in conditions) but may live for many seasons. In both cases reproduction occurs as a single investment of energy in offspring, with no future chance for investment in reproduction.
reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female
places a food item in a special place to be eaten later. Also called "hoarding"
living in residential areas on the outskirts of large cities or towns.
uses touch to communicate
Coniferous or boreal forest, located in a band across northern North America, Europe, and Asia. This terrestrial biome also occurs at high elevations. Long, cold winters and short, wet summers. Few species of trees are present; these are primarily conifers that grow in dense stands with little undergrowth. Some deciduous trees also may be present.
that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).
Living on the ground.
A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.
A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.
A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.
living in cities and large towns, landscapes dominated by human structures and activity.
an animal which has an organ capable of injecting a poisonous substance into a wound (for example, scorpions, jellyfish, and rattlesnakes).
movements of a hard surface that are produced by animals as signals to others
uses sight to communicate
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