Araneus (hairy field spider)

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Ecdysozoa > Panarthropoda > Tritocerebra > Arthropoda > Arachnomorpha > Cheliceriformes > Chelicerata > Euchelicerata > Arachnida > Araneae > Araneomorpha > Family: Araneidae

Araneus, with 16 species listed for South Africa, belongs to a group which shares many commonalities and is not easily separated from Neoscona or Pararaneus. All three genera share the same colloquial name.

Araneus sp. (possibly legonensis ??) occurs in the forested areas from the Table Mountain National Park to Grootvadersbos Nature Reserve in the western Cape. It is similar in appearance and habits to  Araneus legonensis, a species that is found from Ghana in west Africa to South Africa, and the Asian Araneus mutificus. These two araneids are morphologically so distinct, and with their unique web and retreat structure, they may require a genus of their own. They are small, 5-9mm body length, and all display similar colour patterns (green, white, yellow, black and brown) but lack the black anterior edge to the abdomen of the west African and Asian species. Superficially they remind one of the thomisid genus Synema. The species at Grootvadersbos may be a separate one to that found on the Cape Peninsula.

The orb-web, with the hub 0.8-2.8 m above ground level, has a diameter of 50-200mm and a free sector of 20-25% of the web. From the hub to the spider's retreat runs a "telegraph line" that informs the spiders of any prey caught in the web. The retreat consists of a finely spun sheet of silk laid across the upper surface of a leaf where she lays in waiting. This retreat appears to protect the host from detection from spider hunting wasps and it was even noticed that ants stay clear of an occupied retreat. Where the west African spiders were found in park-like vegetation surrounded by coastal savanna the western Cape spiders were all recorded in forested areas.

Text by Norman Larsen .

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