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Arachnid Anomaly

6-1-17 wolf spider 124

Wolf spiders and nursery web spiders look a lot alike. One way to tell one from the other is to look at the arrangement of the spider’s eyes. Nursery web spiders (family Pisauridae) have two rows of four eyes each, all roughly the same size. Wolf spiders (family Lycosidae) have a row of four small eyes, above which there are two large eyes, with two very small eyes a short distance behind them. From looking at the eyes of the pictured spider, one would assume it was a wolf spider (smallest, topmost eyes are not visible).

However, a second way to distinguish these two families of spiders is to notice how the females carry their egg sacs (the females of both species carry their egg sacs with them wherever they go). Wolf spiders attach their egg sacs to the spinnerets located at the tip of their abdomen, whereas nursery web spiders carry them in their pedipalps (two appendages that look like, but aren’t, legs ) and mouthparts, as seen in this photo.

Thus, this particular spider has wolf spider eye arrangement, and practices a nursery web spider egg sac-carrying technique. My assumption is that this is a mixed up wolf spider or one with tired spinnerets.

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12 responses

  1. Alice Pratt

    Whichever one it is, I think it’s so motherly to carry all those babies with her. I saw a spider with an egg sac a few days ago.

    June 1, 2017 at 8:24 am

  2. marianneblake

    I love your sense of humor, Mary!

    June 1, 2017 at 8:24 am

  3. I appreciate your non dogmatic approach! Regardless of her “name”, she’s a protective mother!

    June 1, 2017 at 9:07 am

  4. Cheron barton

    BTW… I HATE… Tick spiders!!😝

    Sent from my iPhone


    June 1, 2017 at 9:08 am

  5. Clyde

    Brings new meaning to “Look into my eyes,eyes,eyes,eyes,etc.”

    June 1, 2017 at 10:05 am

  6. Elizabeth Kilmarx

    The photo is adorable. Who couldn’t love a face like that? If that face were on a lapdog, everyone’s response would be “awwwww.”

    June 1, 2017 at 10:50 am

    • I was just thinking that! She’s so cute!

      June 1, 2017 at 12:39 pm

    • I have a feeling not every reader agrees with you or Kellyann!

      June 1, 2017 at 3:57 pm

  7. Tami

    Maybe it’s a wolf spider that was raised by a nursery web spider (tongue firmly in cheek here) and it imprinted.

    June 1, 2017 at 11:56 am

  8. Kathryn

    Wolf and/or nursery spiders are what started to change my view of spiders from “aaaaaackhodopejks!” to “wow, what a good mom. Carry on…”

    June 1, 2017 at 1:05 pm

  9. Susan Hindinger

    Hi Mary, I’ve been wondering if this egg sac is ready to mature. I think wolf spiders often help liberate their babies by opening the sac when they hatch, so perhaps you caught this one in the act?

    June 6, 2017 at 4:17 pm

    • Hi Susan,
      What insight! I didn’t realize they had anything to do with the process of the young hatching out of the sac. I bet that’s exactly what was going on! Thanks so much. Now I wish I’d stuck around and watched her even longer!

      June 6, 2017 at 5:25 pm

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