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Tangle-web spiders
Temporal range: Cretaceous–present
Enoplognatha ovata.JPG
Enoplognatha ovata
Scientific classification Red Pencil Icon.png
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Subphylum: Chelicerata
Class: Arachnida
Order: Araneae
Infraorder: Araneomorphae
Family: Theridiidae
Sundevall, 1833
124 genera, 3028 species

Theridiidae, also known as the tangle-web spiders, cobweb spiders and comb-footed spiders, is a large family of araneomorph spiders first described by Carl Jakob Sundevall in 1833. [1] This diverse, globally distributed family includes over 3,000 species in 124 genera, [2] and is the most common arthropod found in human dwellings throughout the world. [3]


Theridiid spiders are both entelegyne, [4] meaning that the females have a genital plate, and ecribellate, meaning that they spin sticky capture silk instead of woolly silk. They have a comb of serrated bristles (setae) on the tarsus of the fourth leg.

The family includes some model organisms for research, including the medically important widow spiders. They are important to studies characterizing their venom and its clinical manifestation, but widow spiders are also used in research on spider silk and sexual biology, including sexual cannibalism. Anelosimus are also model organisms, used for the study of sociality, because it has evolved frequently within the genus, allowing comparative studies across species, and because it contains species varying from solitary to permanently social. [5] These spiders are also a promising model for the study of inbreeding because all permanently social species are highly inbred. [6]

The Hawaiian Theridion grallator is used as a model to understand the selective forces and the genetic basis of color polymorphism within species. T. grallator is known as the "happyface" spider, as certain morphs have a pattern resembling a smiley face or a grinning clown face on their yellow body. [7] [8]


They often build tangle space webs, hence the common name, but Theridiidae has a large diversity of spider web forms. [9] Many trap ants and other ground dwelling insects using elastic, sticky silk trap lines leading to the soil surface. Webs remain in place for extended periods and are expanded and repaired, but no regular pattern of web replacement has been observed. [10]

The well studied kleptoparasitic members of Argyrodinae ( Argyrodes , Faiditus , and Neospintharus ) live in the webs of larger spiders and pilfer small prey caught by their host's web. They eat prey killed by the host spider, consume silk from the host web, and sometimes attack and eat the host itself. [11] [12]

Theridiid gumfoot-webs consist of frame lines that anchor them to surroundings and of support threads, which possess viscid silk. These can either have a central retreat ( Achaearanea -type) or a peripheral retreat (Latrodectus-type). [13] [14] Building gum-foot lines is a unique, stereotyped behaviour, and is likely homologous for Theridiidae and its sister family Nesticidae. [15]

Among webs without gumfooted lines, some contain viscid silk ( Theridion -type) and some that are sheet-like, which do not contain viscid silk ( Coleosoma -type). However, there are many undescribed web forms.


Chrysso pulcherrima Chrysso.pulcherrima.male.-.tanikawa.jpg
Chrysso pulcherrima
Coscinida japonica Coscinida.japonica.female.-.tanikawa.jpg
Coscinida japonica
Dipoena martinae Dipoena.martinae.female.-.tanikawa.jpg
Dipoena martinae
Enoplognatha abrupta Enoplognatha.abrupta.female.-.tanikawa.jpg
Enoplognatha abrupta
Epsinus nubilus Episinus.nubilus.male.-.tanikawa.jpg
Epsinus nubilus
Latrodectus mactans, a black widow spider Black Widow Spider 07-04-20.jpg
Latrodectus mactans , a black widow spider
Theridion impressum Theridion impressum 01.JPG
Theridion impressum
Theridula angula moving from one tree to another carrying the egg sac Theridula angula at Kadavoor.jpg
Theridula angula moving from one tree to another carrying the egg sac

The largest genus is Theridion with over 600 species, but it is not monophyletic. Parasteatoda , previously Achaearanea , is another large genus that includes the North American common house spider. As of April 2019, the World Spider Catalog accepts the following genera: [2]

About 35 extinct genera have also been placed in the family. [16] The oldest known stem-group member of the family is Cretotheridion from the Cenomanian aged Burmese amber of Myanmar. [17]

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Philodromidae</span> Family of spiders

Philodromidae, also known as philodromid crab spiders and running crab spiders, is a family of araneomorph spiders first described by Tord Tamerlan Teodor Thorell in 1870. It contains over 500 species in thirty genera.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Orb-weaver spider</span> Family of spiders

Orb-weaver spiders are members of the spider family Araneidae. They are the most common group of builders of spiral wheel-shaped webs often found in gardens, fields, and forests. The English word "orb" can mean "circular", hence the English name of the group. Araneids have eight similar eyes, hairy or spiny legs, and no stridulating organs.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Oonopidae</span> Family of spiders

Oonopidae, also known as goblin spiders, is a family of spiders consisting of over 1,600 described species in about 113 genera worldwide, with total species diversity estimated at 2000 to 2500 species. The type genus of the family is OonopsKeyserling, 1835.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Linyphiidae</span> Family of spiders

Linyphiidae, spiders commonly known as sheet weavers, or money spiders is a family of very small spiders comprising 4706 described species in 620 genera worldwide. This makes Linyphiidae the second largest family of spiders after the Salticidae. The family is poorly understood due to their small body size and wide distribution, new genera and species are still being discovered throughout the world. The newest such genus is Himalafurca from Nepal, formally described in April 2021 by Tanasevitch. Since it is so difficult to identify such tiny spiders, there are regular changes in taxonomy as species are combined or divided.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Long-jawed orb weaver</span> Family of spiders

Long-jawed orb weavers or long jawed spiders (Tetragnathidae) are a family of araneomorph spiders first described by Anton Menge in 1866. They have elongated bodies, legs, and chelicerae, and build small orb webs with an open hub with few, wide-set radii and spirals with no signal line or retreat. Some species are often found in long vegetation near water.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Scaffold web spider</span> Family of spiders

Scaffold web spiders (Nesticidae) is a family of araneomorph spiders closely allied with tangle web spiders. Like the "Theridiidae", these spiders have a comb of serrated bristles on the hind tarsi that are used to pull silk bands from the spinnerets. It contains 16 genera and about 300 species, many of which are associated with caves or overhangs. The genus Nesticus is the type for the family and is found throughout the world. The related Eidmannella has speciated considerably in Texas caves and includes some extremely localized species that are considered threatened. One species, Eidmannella pallida, is found in caves and under overhangs, but also in agricultural fields and other habitats away from such restricted areas. The genus Carpathonesticus is found in central Eurasia.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ray spider</span> Family of spiders

The ray spiders (Theridiosomatidae) are a family of spiders first described by Eugène Simon in 1881. They are most recognizable for their construction of cone-shaped webs.

<i>Theridiosoma</i> Genus of spiders

Theridiosoma is a genus of ray spiders that was first described by Octavius Pickard-Cambridge in 1879.

<i>Argyrodes</i> Genus of spiders

Argyrodes, also called dewdrop spiders, is a genus of comb-footed spiders that was first described by Eugène Louis Simon in 1864. They occur worldwide, and are best known for their kleptoparasitism. They can spin their own webs, but tend to invade and reside in their hosts' webs. This relationship can be commensal or even mutual if the dewdrop spider feeds on small trapped insects that are not eaten by the host. Some species can even prey upon the host.

<i>Theridion</i> Genus of spiders

Theridion is a genus of tangle-web spiders with a worldwide distribution. Notable species are the Hawaiian happy face spider (T. grallator), named for the iconic symbol on its abdomen, and T. nigroannulatum, one of few spider species that lives in social groups, attacking prey en masse to overwhelm them as a team.

<i>Spintharus</i> Genus of spiders

The spider genus Spintharus occurs from the northeastern United States to Brazil. Nicholas Marcellus Hentz circumscribed the genus in 1850, initially as a monospecific genus containing his newly described species S. flavidus.

<i>Enoplognatha</i> Genus of spiders

Enoplognatha is a genus of comb-footed spiders that was first described by P. Pavesi in 1880. They have both a large colulus and a subspherical abdomen. Males usually have enlarged chelicerae. It is considered a senior synonym of Symopagia.

<i>Anelosimus</i> Genus of spiders

Anelosimus is a cosmopolitan genus of cobweb spiders (Theridiidae), currently containing 74 species. Anelosimus is a key group in the study of sociality and its evolution in spiders. It contains species spanning the spectrum from solitary to highly social (quasisocial), with eight quasisocial species, far more than any other spider genus. Among these is the South American social species Anelosimus eximius, among the best studied social spider species.

<i>Euryopis</i> Genus of spiders

Euryopis is a genus of comb-footed spiders that was first described by Anton Menge in 1868.

<i>Lasaeola</i> Genus of spiders

Lasaeola is a genus of comb-footed spiders that was first described by Eugène Louis Simon in 1881. The type species was described under the name Pachydactylus pronus, but was renamed Lasaeola prona when it was discovered that the name "Pachydactylus" was preoccupied. Both this genus and Deliana were removed from the synonymy of Dipoena in 1988, but many of these species require more study before their placement is certain.

<i>Dipoena</i> Genus of spiders

Dipoena is a genus of tangle-web spiders that was first described by Tamerlan Thorell in 1869.

<i>Rhomphaea</i> Genus of spiders

Rhomphaea is a genus of comb-footed spiders that was first described by Ludwig Carl Christian Koch in 1872.

<i>Thymoites</i> Genus of spiders

Thymoites is a genus of comb-footed spiders that was first described by Eugen von Keyserling in 1884.


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Further reading