INTRODUCTION: Purse Web Spiders (Atypus) belong to the sub-order
Orthognatha (Mygalomorphae) or primitive spiders and are recognised by their
Their size varies between 10 and 15 mm. In Europe only two members
of this sub-order can be found. In Australia 13% of the spiders belong to
the Mygalomorphae. Purse Web spider go back 360 million years and are very timid
spiders. They are related to Tarantulas and Funnel Web spiders.
Most of these spiders live fearful lives buried deep in holes. They react on
unexpected events by cowering in fear, unable to move, or by violently plunging
their pickaxe fangs. The Purse Web spiders are named for their webs, which
are purse-like, long tubes that stick out from their burrows They dig a hole, up
to 50 cm deep, in the ground and line it up with silk. Above the ground the tube
extends for several centimeters. The tube is covered with soil and debris and
therefore difficult to spot.
PREY: The spider lies in wait
inside the purse. If an insect should step on the purse, the spider rushes
up and bites it through the silken purse and pulls it though the silk.
BREEDING: Because the spider is
hiding so deep in the ground and hides the tube above the ground very well, it
is difficult to find. Only in autumn when the males start searching for a female
to breed, the spider can be spotted. They are living in colonies, so if one is
spotted more may be found in the surroundings. Mating takes place in the tube
and the spiders stay together for several months. Then the male dies and is
eaten by the female. Females may live for over eight years. Spiderlings take a
year to become full-grown and four years to reach maturity.
1. Ed Nieuwenhuys, April 27, 2002
2. Photos: Todd
and pictures were taken from children's projects and where credited to that
child does not claim to be original information. Where possible, permission
to reproduce has been sought. Any infringement of copyright is purely
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