Pardosa mackenziana

Geographic Range

Thin-legged wolf spiders (Pardosa mackenziana) are native to the Nearctic region and are widely distributed in North America. They are widespread across Canada and can be found across the northern half of the United States, from coast to coast. Their range extends as far south as Colorado and northern California. They are also present in Alaska. (Aitchison and Sutherland, 2000; Buddle, 2000; Buddle, 2001; Buddle, 2002; Jennings, et al., 1988; Vogel, 2004)


Thin-legged wolf spiders are ground-dwelling spiders found in temperate regions. They typically live on forest floors and can often be found on woody material such as downed logs. Their habitat includes both deciduous and coniferous forests, as well as salt marshes, bogs, and beaches. Thin-legged wolf spiders can also be found in Canada's taiga and alpine tundra. They have been recorded at elevations as high as 3,500 m. They overwinter in dead leaf litter. (Buddle, 2000; Buddle, 2001; Buddle, 2002; Schmoller, 1970)

  • Range elevation
    3500 (high) m
    11482.94 (high) ft

Physical Description

Thin-legged wolf spiders are considered large wolf spiders. This species exhibits sexual dimorphism, with females being slightly larger than males. Females are generally 6.9 to 8.6 mm in length, while males are 5.9 to 7.1 mm in length. Like all wolf spiders (Lycosidae), this species has a high arched cephalothorax and long legs, with 3 claws on their tarsi. They have three rows of eyes; the first row on the lower part of their face has four eyes, just above are two large eyes, and two medium-sized eyes are placed farther back. Their brown cephalothorax has a light brownish-red band going down the center of the dorsal side, with wide dark brown stripes on either side. The light brownish-red band extends down the center of their abdomen, though wider, and flanked by narrower dark stripes. Their eye region is black and their legs have dark brown or black alternating rings. Females and males are similarly colored. Immature spiderlings have white setae that form a V-shape on the median section of their carapace. Members of this genus, Pardosa, have similar coloring, but can be identified by their copulatory organs. Females can be distinguished by their epigynum, which is almost as wide as it is long. In males, the tip of the median apophysis on the palp is tapered and notched. (Buddle, 2000; Chamberlin, 1908; Vogel, 2004)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • female larger
  • Range length
    5.9 to 8.6 mm
    0.23 to 0.34 in


Female thin-legged wolf spiders carry their egg sacs. Once the eggs hatch, from late May to July, the spiderlings ride on the female's abdomen until late June or late July, when they disperse and achieve independence. These immature spiderlings typically overwinter in leaf litter from late September or October and emerge the next April. Populations in northern regions, particularly Canada, have two year development cycles. Sub-adults in these populations overwinter a second time. Populations in the southern region of their range, such as Colorado, have one year cycles and only overwinter once. Once sub-adults have emerged from overwintering, they molt into their reproductive adult phase. Mating occurs in the early spring. Males die shortly after their reproductive period, while females survive into the summer to carry and protect the egg sacs and the hatched spiderlings. Adults forage from April to September, but their population size typically peaks from May to June. Their number of instars is likely flexible, depending on the time of year that the eggs hatch. Since the mating period is consistent each year and eggs can hatch any time over a three month period in the summer, spiderlings that hatch later in the season have less time to grow and develop before overwintering. Regardless of when they hatch, all spiderlings are ready to mate in the spring, either one or two years later, depending on the region. (Buddle, 2000; Buddle, 2002; Schmoller, 1970)


While there is little information specific to the mating habits of thin-legged wolf spiders, mating habits for wolf spiders (Lycosidae) in general are known. Males typically mount females so that they are facing opposite directions. Females must twist and invert their abdomen so that males can reach around to the ventral side of their abdomen. Males use their pedipalps to transfer sperm into the females' epigynum. Thin-legged wolf spiders mate in May and June, after sub-adults that overwintered have molted into their reproductive phase. Mating may reportedly last about 60 minutes in this species. While the catalysts of mate attraction are unknown in this species, females from other wolf spider species, including other species of Pardosa, use pheromones or other chemicals to attract males. Contact pheromones are often used; males detect these pheromones with chemoreceptors on their forelegs and palps. Visual and vibratory cues may also be used. (Buddle, 2002; Jiao, et al., 2011; Stratton, et al., 1996; Wilder and Rypstra, 2007)

After mating in May and June, female thin-legged wolf spiders begin constructing an egg sac. First, they spin a circular disc of web from their spinnerets on the ground, attaching it to the substrate. Then, they enlarge it and lay their eggs in the center. They spin a covering disc on top of the eggs, connecting it with the bottom disc to form a sac, and use their chelicerae to detach the sac from its surroundings. Fresh threads are laid over it and females carry it under their abdomen by their spinnerets into the summer. Their average clutch size is 48, though clutch size is highly affected by the size and health of the female parent. Female thin-legged wolf spiders can lay up to 2 egg sacs, though the second egg sac typically contains fewer eggs. Eggs in the second sac are heavier, containing more provisionings for the offspring who will have to overwinter after a shorter development period. Once hatched, spiderlings ride on the female's abdomen, leaving when they become independent, usually in late summer and into autumn. (Buddle, 2000; Buddle, 2002; Chamberlin, 1908)

  • Breeding season
    Thin-legged wolf spiders mate during May and June.
  • Average number of offspring

Female thin-legged wolf spiders invest a significant amount in parental care, as do most female wolf spiders. Adults provide provisioning in the eggs. The eggs are laid in an egg sac, which the female carries with her. Females with egg sacs can often be found on wooded surfaces, such as dead logs, in the sun. They are likely sunning the egg sacs, perhaps in an attempt to speed development by increasing the temperature. Females can lay up to two egg sacs, though the second egg sac usually contains fewer eggs. Eggs in the second egg sac are often heavier than eggs from the first egg sac, indicating that these eggs contain more provisioning. Since the second egg sac hatches much later in the season, these offspring have significantly less time to grow and develop before they overwinter, so the extra provisioning can be vital to survival. Once the eggs hatch, the spiderlings climb to the female's abdomen. Females carry the young spiderlings, protecting them until they disperse. Spiderlings typically leave the female parent after about a week; those from the first egg sac disperse in late June to late July. (Buddle, 2000; Buddle, 2001; Buddle, 2002)

  • Parental Investment
  • female parental care
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-independence
    • protecting
      • female


Populations in the far north have two year development cycles, while populations farther south typically develop in one year. Males die shortly after they reproduce, while females live longer, though probably less than a year. (Buddle, 2000; Buddle, 2002)


Thin-legged wolf spiders are solitary predators, living mainly on the ground, though females can often be found on surfaces such as downed logs in the sun. It is thought that females sun their egg sacs. Spiderlings can be found overwintering in leaf litter. Wolf spiders are typically 'sit and wait' predators, waiting for prey to move past, they utilize their speed, long legs, and powerful, venomous bite to catch prey. Researchers have also found evidence of cannibalism in populations of thin-legged wolf spiders. (Buddle, 2000; Buddle, 2002; Persons and Uetz, 1999)

Home Range

A study in Alberta, Canada found that thin-legged wolf spiders have an average density of 0.6 per square meter. This spider does not seem to be territorial, as density can be high and ranges likely overlap. Their home range is only limited by how far spiders can move along the ground. (Buddle, 2000)

Communication and Perception

While there is little information specific to this species, much is known about the communication and perception of wolf spiders in general. These spiders have three rows of eyes that are strongly developed, allowing them to see prey and mates, though their eyes generally detect movement better than forms. Wolf spiders have chemoreceptive hairs on their legs. These hairs are used to detect prey, mates, and other individuals. Male wolf spiders, which also have chemoreceptors on their palps, have been observed feeling the ground or other substrates with their legs to detect chemicals and odors. Males often begin courtship motions after detecting pheromones and chemicals left by females that have recently passed over the same substrate. To find prey, wolf spiders visually detect their motion, responding to stimuli such as flashing or moving lights. Chemical detection of prey is also utilized. Vibrations may be the most important information source when searching for prey. These vibrations can be detected by mechanoreceptors through both substrate and air. Vibratory cues are also used for communication between mates. (Chamberlin, 1908; Jiao, et al., 2011; Kronestedt, 1979; Lizotte and Rovner, 1988; Persons and Uetz, 1999; Stratton, et al., 1996)

Food Habits

Thin-legged wolf spiders are predatory insectivores. Wolf spiders are avid hunters and are usually 'sit and wait' predators. They typically move very quick, using their long legs to grab prey that moves past. Wolf spiders also have a venomous bite and large chelicerae that can do significant mechanical damage. Thin-legged wolf spiders feed on many species of insects and other arthropods, including herbivores, detritivores, omnivores, and other predators. They also likely exhibit cannibalism at some point in their life cycle. (Buddle, 2002; Chamberlin, 1908; Fagan, 1997; Livshits, et al., 2012; Persons and Uetz, 1999)

  • Animal Foods
  • insects
  • terrestrial non-insect arthropods


There is little information available about predators of thin-legged wolf spiders. As a significant predator itself, they likely have to deal with few predators. Predation by other arthropods has been reported as insignificant even for young spiderlings. Cannibalism and intraguild predation between other species of wolf spiders are a potential threat. The brown colors and patterns of these spiders may function as camouflage as they move across the ground. (Buddle, 2002)

Ecosystem Roles

Thin-legged wolf spiders are significant predators to many species of insects and other arthropods. They have a very high density in many areas, particularly in Canada, where average density is 0.6 per square meter. This species is sympatric with another wolf spider, Pardosa moesta, in Canada. There is thought to be little direct competition between the two species, as they occupy different niches, but they can usually be found living in close proximity. Wasps of genus Gelis parasitize the egg sacs of northern Pardosa species that are closely related to and from the same region as thin-legged wolf spiders. These parasitoids destroy the egg sac. These wasps also likely parasitize egg sacs of thin-legged wolf spiders. (Bowden and Buddle, 2012; Buddle, 2000; Buddle, 2002; Chamberlin, 1908; Fagan, 1997)

Commensal/Parasitic Species

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

There are no known positive effects of thin-legged wolf spiders on humans.

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

While there is no documentation of this species biting humans, wolf spiders in general are known to have potentially painful and venomous bites. Their large chelicerae may cause more damage than their venom, making the bite damage more mechanical in nature. Bites can cause pain, swelling, redness, and ulceration. In extreme cases, they can require medical attention. It is likely that thin-legged wolf spiders can also inflict a venomous bite to humans, though rarely and probably only when feeling threatened or provoked. (Livshits, et al., 2012)

  • Negative Impacts
  • injures humans

Conservation Status

Pardosa mackenziana has no special conservation status.


Angela Miner (author), Animal Diversity Web Staff, Leila Siciliano Martina (editor), Animal Diversity Web Staff.



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.

World Map

bilateral symmetry

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.


a wetland area rich in accumulated plant material and with acidic soils surrounding a body of open water. Bogs have a flora dominated by sedges, heaths, and sphagnum.


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

female parental care

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.


having a body temperature that fluctuates with that of the immediate environment; having no mechanism or a poorly developed mechanism for regulating internal body temperature.


the state that some animals enter during winter in which normal physiological processes are significantly reduced, thus lowering the animal's energy requirements. The act or condition of passing winter in a torpid or resting state, typically involving the abandonment of homoiothermy in mammals.


An animal that eats mainly insects or spiders.

internal fertilization

fertilization takes place within the female's body


marshes are wetland areas often dominated by grasses and reeds.


A large change in the shape or structure of an animal that happens as the animal grows. In insects, "incomplete metamorphosis" is when young animals are similar to adults and change gradually into the adult form, and "complete metamorphosis" is when there is a profound change between larval and adult forms. Butterflies have complete metamorphosis, grasshoppers have incomplete metamorphosis.


having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


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

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


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


lives alone


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 with low, shrubby or mat-like vegetation found at extremely high latitudes or elevations, near the limit of plant growth. Soils usually subject to permafrost. Plant diversity is typically low and the growing season is short.


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


Aitchison, C., G. Sutherland. 2000. Diversity of forest upland arachnid communities in Manitoba taiga (Araneae, Opiliones). Canadian Field-Naturalist, 114/4: 636-651. Accessed August 15, 2013 at

Bowden, J., C. Buddle. 2012. Egg sac parasitism of Arctic wolf spiders (Araneae: Lycosidae) from northwestern North America. Journal of Arachnology, 40/3: 348-350. Accessed August 15, 2013 at

Buddle, C. 2002. Interactions among young stages of the wolf spiders Pardosa moesta and P. mackenziana (Araneae : Lycosidae). Oikos, 96/1: 130-136. Accessed August 15, 2013 at

Buddle, C. 2000. Life History of Pardosa moesta and Pardosa mackenziana (Araneae, Lycosidae) in central Alberta, Canada. Journal of Arachnology, 28/3: 319-328. Accessed August 15, 2013 at

Buddle, C. 2001. Spiders (Araneae) associated with downed woody material in a deciduous forest in central Alberta, Canada. Agricultural and Forest Entomology, 3/4: 241-251. Accessed August 15, 2013 at

Chamberlin, R. 1908. Revision of North American spiders of the family Lycosidae. Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, 60/2: 158-318. Accessed August 15, 2013 at

Fagan, W. 1997. Omnivory as a stabilizing feature of natural communities. The American Naturalist, 150/5: 554-567. Accessed August 15, 2013 at

Jennings, D., M. Houseweart, C. Dondale, J. Redner. 1988. Spiders (Araneae) associated with strip-clearcut and dense spruce-fir forests of Maine. Journal of Arachnology, 16/1: 55-70. Accessed August 15, 2013 at

Jiao, X., Z. Chen, H. Du, J. Chen, F. Liu. 2011. Chemoreceptors distribution and relative importance of male forelegs and palps in intersexual chemical communication of the wolf spider Pardosa astrigera. Chemoecology, 21/1: 45-49. Accessed August 15, 2013 at

Kronestedt, T. 1979. Study on chemosensitive hairs in wolf spiders (Araneae, Lycosidae) by scanning electron-microscopy. Zoologica Scripta, 8/1-4: 279-285. Accessed August 15, 2013 at

Livshits, Z., B. Bernstein, L. Sorkin, S. Smith, R. Hoffman. 2012. Wolf spider envenomation. Wilderness & Environmental Medicine, 23/1: 49-50. Accessed August 15, 2013 at

Lizotte, R., J. Rovner. 1988. Nocturnal capture of fireflies by Lycosid spiders: Visual versus vibratory stimuli. Animal Behaviour, 36/6: 1809-1815. Accessed August 15, 2013 at

Persons, M., G. Uetz. 1999. Age and sex-based differences in the use of prey sensory cues in wolf spiders (Araneae : Lycosidae). Journal of Insect Behavior, 12/6: 723-736. Accessed August 15, 2013 at

Schmoller, R. 1970. Life histories of alpine tundra Arachnida in Colorado. American Midland Naturalist, 83/1: 119-133. Accessed August 15, 2013 at

Stratton, G., E. Hebets, P. Miller, G. Miller. 1996. Pattern and duration of Copulation in Wolf Spiders (Araneae, Lycosidae). Journal of Arachnology, 24/3: 186-200. Accessed August 15, 2013 at

Vogel, B. 2004. A review of the spider genera Pardosa and Acantholycosa (Araneae, Lycosidae) of the 48 contiguous United States. Journal of Arachnology, 32/1: 55-108. Accessed August 15, 2013 at

Wilder, S., A. Rypstra. 2007. Male control of copulation duration in a Wolf spider (Araneae, Lycosidae). Behaviour, 144/4: 471-484. Accessed August 15, 2013 at