Leucorchestris arenicola (Dancing white lady)

Lawrence, 1962

[= Leucorchestris kochi]

Dansende wit dame [Afrikaans]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Ecdysozoa > Panarthropoda > Tritocerebra > Arthropoda > Arachnomorpha > Cheliceriformes > Chelicerata > Euchelicerata > Arachnida > Araneae > Araneomorpha > Family: Sparassidae (huntsman spiders) > Genus: Leucorchestris

Distribution and habitat

Occurs in the sand dunes of the Namib Desert.


Leucorchestris arenicola is known to do a dance, hence its common name. The purpose of this dance is to communicate to other males or females by drumming the tarsae against the sand.

The retreat consists of a short wide silk lined burrow at the base of dunes. This, 30–40 cm long burrow, is dug at an angle of 30 degrees and approximately 25 cm deep where temperature is more tolerable than on the hot day time surface temperatures. A camouflaged trapdoor covers the burrow. Females only wander no further than 40 m from their burrows while males have been found to do a round trip of approximately 810 m. When returning they use various methods of navigation to directly via the shortist route to its burrow.

Ecological interactions

Tenebrionid beetles, spiders, scorpions and Dune geckos, Pachydactylus rangeri are the main prey Leucorchestris.

Derivation of name

Leucorchestris is derived from the Greek orchestris meaning feminine dancer, and leuc referring to the spider’s white colour.

Publications (by date)

  • Lawrence RF. 1962. Spiders of the Namib Desert. Annals of the Transvaal Museum 10: 197–211.
  • Lawrence RF. 1965. Dune spiders of the Namib Desert. Animals 7: 260–263.
  • Henschel JR. 1990. The biology of Leucorchestris arenicola (Araneae: Heteropodidae), a burrowing spider of the Namib dunes. Pp. 115–127. In Namib Ecology− 25 Years Of Namib Research. (M.K. Seely, ed.). Transvaal Museum Monograph No. 7, Pretoria.
  • Henschel JR. 1994. Diet and foraging behaviour of huntsman spiders in the Namib dunes (Araneae: Heteropodidae). Journal of Zoology 234(2): 239-251. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-7998.1994.tb06072.x
  • Henschel JR. 1997. Psammophily in Namib Desert spiders. Journal of Arid Environments 37:695–707.
  • Polis GA, Barnes JD, Seely MK, Henschel JR, Enders MM. 1998. Predation as a major cost of reproduction in Namib Desert tenebrionid beetles. Ecology 79(7): 2560-2566. doi: 10.1890/0012-9658(1998)079[2560:PAAMCO]2.0.CO;2
  • Henschel JR. 2002. Long-distance wandering and mating by the Dancing white lady spider (Leucorchestris arenicola) (Araneae, Sparassidae) across Namib dunes. Journal of Arachnology 30(2): 321-330. doi: 10.1636/0161-8202(2002)030[0321:LDWAMB]2.0.CO;2  pdf
  • Nørgaard T, Henschel JR, Wehner R. 2003. Long-distance navigation in the wandering desert spider Leucorchestris arenicola: can the slope of the dune surface provide a compass cue? Journal of Comparative Physiology A 189(11): 801-809. doi: 10.1007/s00359-003-0455-6  pdf
  • Nørgaard T. 2006. Nocturnal navigation in Leucorchestris arenicola (Araneae: Sparassidae). Journal of Arachnology 33: 533–540.
  • Nørgaard T, Henschel JR, Wehner R. 2006a. The night-time temporal window of locomotor activity in the Namib Desert long-distance wandering spider, Leucorchestris arenicola. Journal of Comparative Physiology A 192(4): 365-372. doi: 10.1007/s00359-005-0072-7  pdf
  • Nørgaard T, Henschel JR, Wehner R. 2006b. Tracking the Namib Desert spider Leucorchestris arenicola - reading the story in the sand. Senckenb Biol 86: 211–218.
  • Birkhofer K, Henschel JR, Scheu S. 2006. Spatial-pattern analysis in a territorial spider: evidence for multi-scale effects. Ecography 29(5): 641-648. doi: 10.1111/j.0906-7590.2006.04661.x
  • Birkhofer K, Scheu S, Henschel JR. 2006. Does territorial behaviour in the desert-living spider Leucorchestris arenicola (Araneae: Sparassidae) affect its spatial distribution? Bulletin of the British Arachnology Society 13: 341–346.
  • Nørgaard T, Henschel JR, Wehner R. 2007. Use of local cues in the night-time navigation of the wandering desert spider Leucorchestris arenicola (Araneae, Sparassidae). Journal of Comparative Physiology A 193(2): 217-222. doi: 10.1007/s00359-006-0178-6  pdf
  • Nørgaard T, Nilsson D-E, Henschel JR, Garm A, Wehner R. 2008. Vision in the nocturnal wandering spider Leucorchestris arenicola (Araneae: Sparassidae). The Journal of Experimental Biology 211: 816-823. doi: 10.1242/​jeb.010546  pdf

Text by Norman Larsen ©

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