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The jumping spider Phidippus audax. The basal parts of the chelicerae are the two iridescent green mouthparts. Kaldari Phidippus audax 01.jpg
The jumping spider Phidippus audax . The basal parts of the chelicerae are the two iridescent green mouthparts.

The chelicerae ( /kəˈlɪsər/ ) are the mouthparts of the Chelicerata, an arthropod group that includes arachnids, horseshoe crabs, and sea spiders. Commonly referred to as "jaws", chelicerae may be shaped as either articulated fangs, or similarly to pincers. Some chelicerae, such as those found on nearly all spiders, are hollow and contain (or are connected to) venom glands, and are used to inject venom into prey or a perceived threat. Both pseudoscorpions and harvestmen have structures on their chelicerae that are used for grooming (papillae in pseudoscorpions, cheliceral teeth in Opiliones). [1]



Types of chelicerae: (A) jackknife, (B) scissor, and (C) 3-segmented chelate Chelicerae.svg
Types of chelicerae: (A) jackknife, (B) scissor, and (C) 3-segmented chelate
3D view of the chelicerae of a jumping spider. The pedipalps were removed to see the chelicerae. Jumping spider fang 3D.jpg
3D view of the chelicerae of a jumping spider. The pedipalps were removed to see the chelicerae.

Chelicerae can be divided into three kinds: jackknife chelicerae, scissor chelicerae, and 3-segmented chelate chelicerae. [2]

Jackknife chelicerae

The jackknife chelicera is subchelate (with fixed finger much reduced or absent) and is composed of two segments. This type of chelicera occurs exclusively in the Tetrapulmonata.

Jackknife chelicera presents two different forms: orthognathous and labidognathous. Orthognathous chelicerae are articulated in a manner that enables movements of the appendages parallel to the body axis. This kind of chelicera occurs in the Liphistiomorphae and Mygalomorphae spiders and in the related orders Amblypygi, Schizomida and Thelyphonida. Labidognathous chelicerae move at right angles to the body axis. This kind of chelicera is rotated and occurs exclusively in the Araneomorphae spiders. [3]

Spider chelicerae

Spider chelicerae. The chelicerae are shown in black, the surface of the cephalothorax in brown, the legs in reddish brown, and the venom glands and surrounding muscle tissue in green. The fang portion of the right chelicera can be seen projecting into the space between the two chelicerae. Spider chelicerae.png
Spider chelicerae. The chelicerae are shown in black, the surface of the cephalothorax in brown, the legs in reddish brown, and the venom glands and surrounding muscle tissue in green. The fang portion of the right chelicera can be seen projecting into the space between the two chelicerae.

The chelicerae consist of a base segment, sometimes called the "paturon", that articulates with the cephalothorax (or prosoma) and a fang portion that articulates with the base segment. [2] Almost all spiders have venom glands and can inject the venom through openings near the tips of their fangs when biting prey. The glands that produce this venom are located in the two segments of the chelicerae, and, in most spiders, extend beyond the chelicerae and into the cephalothorax. [2] The fang, the organic functional equivalent to a hypodermic needle is what penetrates the skin, fur, or exoskeleton of the spider's target—spider mouthparts are primarily intended for envenoming a spider's prey in most species, typically insects and other small arthropods. [2] The basal portion includes all or part of the spider's venom glands, which can be squeezed to control the amount of venom forced out of the glands. [2] Such control permits a spider to administer either a dry bite, a dose appropriate to the nature of the prey or enemy, or a maximal dose. [2] The control is also necessary for actions such as the spitting of venomous silk by members of the family Scytodidae; they depend on that mechanism both in hunting and defence.

When a spider bites, the two parts of the chelicerae come together like a folding knife, and when making a threat display or actually preparing to bite, the spider will open the angle of the fangs with the basal portion of the chelicerae and also open the angle of the basal portion with the cephalothorax. [2] In the tarantulas and other Mygalomorphae, the horizontal separation of the tips of the fangs does not change much, but in the other spiders the tips of the fangs move apart from each other as well as elevating. [2] Even the tips of the fangs of the rather large spider shown above are quite sharp, and the spider's body is well adapted to driving the fangs into flesh. Some spider bites, such as those of the Sydney funnel-web spider, are reported to have penetrated toenails and soft leather shoes.

Chelicerae of Psalmopoeus cambridgei
Psalmopoeus cambridgei Fang 60x.jpg
The fang is about 2 mm long. The spider itself is about 25 mm long.
Psalmopoeus cambridgei Fang and hypo.jpg
Microphotograph of the same chelicera and the tip of a 22–gauge (0.64 mm (0.025 in)) hypodermic needle
Scissor chelicerae of Solifugae, lateral aspect Solifugae Chelicera lateral aspect 2012 01 24 0999s.JPG
Scissor chelicerae of Solifugae, lateral aspect

Uncate Chelicerae

The uncate chelicera is chelate and composed of two segments and occurs in the orders Pseudoscorpiones, Solifugae, Ricinulei, and Araneae [4] (e.g., brown recluse, cellar spider, and crevice weaving spider).

3-segmented chelate chelicerae

This is the primitive condition and occurs in arachnids such as the Scorpiones and the Opiliones, as well as in non-arachnid Chelicerata such as the Xiphosura and Eurypterida.[ citation needed ] The chelifores of the Pycnogonida may be homologous to chelicerae.[ citation needed ]

Related Research Articles


The subphylum Chelicerata constitutes one of the major subdivisions of the phylum Arthropoda. It contains the sea spiders, arachnids, and several extinct lineages, such as the eurypterids and chasmataspidids.

Arachnid Class of arthropods

Arachnida is a class of joint-legged invertebrate animals (arthropods), in the subphylum Chelicerata. Arachnida includes orders containing spiders, scorpions, ticks, mites, harvestmen, and solifuges. In 2019, a molecular phylogenetic study also placed horseshoe crabs in Arachnida.

Pseudoscorpion Order of arachnids

A pseudoscorpion, also known as a false scorpion or book scorpion, is an arachnid belonging to the order Pseudoscorpiones, also known as Pseudoscorpionida or Chelonethida.


Amblypygi is an ancient order of arachnid chelicerate arthropods also known as whip spiders and tailless whip scorpions. The name "amblypygid" means "blunt tail", a reference to a lack of the flagellum that is otherwise seen in whip scorpions. They are harmless to humans. Amblypygids possess no silk glands or venomous fangs. They rarely bite if threatened, but can grab fingers with their pedipalps, resulting in thorn-like puncture injuries.

Opiliones Order of arachnids (harvestmen/daddy longlegs)

The Opiliones are an order of arachnids colloquially known as harvestmen, harvesters, or daddy longlegs. As of April 2017, over 6,650 species of harvestmen have been discovered worldwide, although the total number of extant species may exceed 10,000. The order Opiliones includes five suborders: Cyphophthalmi, Eupnoi, Dyspnoi, Laniatores, and Tetrophthalmi, which were named in 2014.


The order Ricinulei is a group of arachnids known as hooded tickspiders, though they are not true spiders. Like most arachnids, they are predatory, eating small arthropods. In older works they are sometimes referred to as Podogona.


Pedipalps are the second pair of appendages of chelicerates – a group of arthropods including spiders, scorpions, horseshoe crabs, and sea spiders. The pedipalps are lateral to the chelicerae ("jaws") and anterior to the first pair of walking legs.


Solifugae is an order of animals in the class Arachnida known variously as camel spiders, wind scorpions, sun spiders, or solifuges. The order includes more than 1,000 described species in about 153 genera. Despite the common names, they are neither true scorpions nor true spiders. Most species of Solifugae live in dry climates and feed opportunistically on ground-dwelling arthropods and other small animals. The largest species grow to a length of 12–15 cm (5–6 in), including legs. A number of urban legends exaggerate the size and speed of the Solifugae, and their potential danger to humans, which is negligible.

Hexathelidae Family of spiders

Hexathelidae is a family of mygalomorph spiders. It is one of a number of families and genera of spiders known as funnel-web spiders. In 2018, the family was substantially reduced in size by genera being moved to three separate families: Atracidae, Macrothelidae and Porrhothelidae. Atracidae includes the most venomous species formerly placed in Hexathelidae.


The opisthosoma is the posterior part of the body in some arthropods, behind the prosoma (cephalothorax). It is a distinctive feature of the subphylum Chelicerata (arachnids, horseshoe crabs and others. Although it is similar in most respects to an abdomen, the opisthosoma is differentiated by its inclusion of the respiratory organs and the heart.

Arthropod mouthparts

The mouthparts of arthropods have evolved into a number of forms, each adapted to a different style or mode of feeding. Most mouthparts represent modified, paired appendages, which in ancestral forms would have appeared more like legs than mouthparts. In general, arthropods have mouthparts for cutting, chewing, piercing, sucking, shredding, siphoning, and filtering. This article outlines the basic elements of four arthropod groups: insects, myriapods, crustaceans and chelicerates. Insects are used as the model, with the novel mouthparts of the other groups introduced in turn. Insects are not, however, the ancestral form of the other arthropods discussed here.

<i>Scytodes thoracica</i>

Scytodes thoracica is a spitting spider, so called because it spits a venomous sticky silken substance over its prey. Its size ranges between 3–6 mm (0.12–0.24 in). The carapace is unusual in sloping upwards towards its rear end, whereas the abdomen slopes downwards.

Spider anatomy

The anatomy of spiders includes many characteristics shared with other arachnids. These characteristics include bodies divided into two tagmata, eight jointed legs, no wings or antennae, the presence of chelicerae and pedipalps, simple eyes, and an exoskeleton, which is periodically shed.

Mandible (arthropod mouthpart) Pair of mouthparts used either for biting or cutting and holding food

The mandible of an arthropod is a pair of mouthparts used either for biting or cutting and holding food. Mandibles are often simply referred to as jaws. Mandibles are present in the extant subphyla Myriapoda, Crustacea and Hexapoda. These groups make up the clade Mandibulata, which is currently believed to be the sister group to the rest of arthropods, the clade Arachnomorpha.

Opiliones anatomy

Opiliones are an order of arachnids and share many common characteristics with other arachnids. However, several differences separate harvestmen from other arachnid orders such as spiders. The bodies of opiliones are divided into two tagmata : the abdomen (opisthosoma) and the cephalothorax (prosoma). Unlike spiders, the juncture between the abdomen and cephalothorax is often poorly defined. Harvestmen have chelicerae, pedipalps and four pairs of legs. Most harvestmen have two eyes, although there are eyeless species.

Tarantula Family of spiders

Tarantulas comprise a group of large and often ″hairy″ spiders of the family Theraphosidae. Currently, about 1,000 species have been identified. The term tarantula is usually used to describe members of the family Theraphosidae, although many other members of the same infraorder (Mygalomorphae) are commonly referred to as "tarantulas" or "false tarantulas". Some of the more common species have become popular in the exotic pet trade. Many New World species kept as pets have urticating hairs that can cause irritation to the skin, and in extreme cases, cause damage to the eyes.

Spider Order of arachnids

Spiders are air-breathing arthropods that have eight legs, chelicerae with fangs generally able to inject venom, and spinnerets that extrude silk. They are the largest order of arachnids and rank seventh in total species diversity among all orders of organisms. Spiders are found worldwide on every continent except for Antarctica, and have become established in nearly every habitat with the exceptions of air and sea colonization. As of July 2019, at least 48,200 spider species, and 120 families have been recorded by taxonomists. However, there has been dissension within the scientific community as to how all these families should be classified, as evidenced by the over 20 different classifications that have been proposed since 1900.

This glossary describes the terms used in formal descriptions of spiders; where applicable these terms are used in describing other arachnids.


Eucteniza is a genus of trapdoor spiders in the family Euctenizidae containing at least 14 species occurring in Mexico and the southern United States. Species are distinguished by a softened rear portion of the carapace, and males possess large spines on the first two pairs of walking legs that are used to hold females during mating. Like other trapdoor spiders they create burrows with a hinged lid, from which they await passing insects and other arthropods to prey upon. Many species are known from only one or two localities, or from only male specimens. More species are expected to be discovered. Eucteniza is closely related to spiders of the genera Entychides and Neoapachella.


  1. Engel, Roberta (May 2012). "Novel discovery of lamellar papillae on the grooming organ in Synsphyronus (Garypidae: Pseudoscorpiones)". Arthropod Structure & Development. 41 (3): 265–269. doi:10.1016/j.asd.2012.02.004 . Retrieved 5 September 2020.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Rainer F. Foelix (1996). Biology of Spiders (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press. ISBN   0-19-509594-4.
  3. Zonstein, S. L. (2004). D. V. Logunov & D. Penney (ed.). "The spider chelicerae: some problems of origin and evolution" (PDF). Arthropoda Selecta (Special Issue no. 1: European Arachnology 2003): 349–366.
  4. Vetter, Richard S. (2015). The Brown Recluse Spider (1st ed.). Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press. p. 19. ISBN   978-0-8014-7985-4 . Retrieved 1 January 2020.