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Kids' Inquiry of Diverse Species

Local animals in this group:

Lycosidae

What do they look like?

This is a big family of big spiders. Some species are small but most are large: they range from 3-30 mm in body length. Female wolf spiders are often bigger than males of the same species.

Like all spiders they have two body sections: the cephalothorax in front and an abdomen behind. The abdomen contains the digestive and reproductive systems, and on the underside of it are the glands where silk is produced. The structures that produce the silk are called spinnerets.

Wolf spiders have eight legs, all attached to the cephalothorax. On the front of the cephalothorax are the mouth, the fangs, the eyes, and two small "mini-legs" called pedipalps. These are used to grab prey, and in mating, and are much bigger in male spiders than in females. They have eight eyes in three rows. The front row has four small eyes, the middle row has two much larger eyes, and the back two eyes are medium sized and off to the sides. These spiders have strong fangs and and venom glands to quickly kill their prey.

Wolf spiders are colored in camouflage colors of brown, orange, black, and grey. Sometimes they are all one color, but usually they have some stripes or blotches.

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • female larger
  • Range length
    3.0 to 30.0 mm
    0.12 to 1.18 in

Where do they live?

Wolf spiders are found all around the world, and about 2,300 species are known. There are about 50 species of wolf spiders in Michigan.

What kind of habitat do they need?

Wolf spiders live in all kinds of habitats, anywhere there are insects to eat. They seem to be most common in open habitats like grasslands, and are often found in farm fields and meadows. Most species stay on the ground, but a few climb up onto trees and other plants when hunting. Some wolf spiders hunt along the shores of ponds and marshes, and may even dive into the water to capture prey.

  • Aquatic Biomes
  • lakes and ponds

How do they grow?

Wolf spiders hatch from eggs, and the hatchlings look more or less like grown-up spiders, though sometimes their colors change as they age. In many species, the hatchlings ride on their mother's body for some time before going off on their own.

To grow, spiders have to shed their exoskeleton, which they do many times during their lives. Unlike insects, some spider species keep growing after they become adults, and continue to molt as they get bigger.

How long do they live?

Male wolf spiders probably don't live more than a year, but females of some species can live for several years.

How do they behave?

Many wolf spider species hunt at night, but some are active during the day.

Some species wander, hiding during the day and roaming at night to find food. Some patrol a regular territory, returning to the same place to rest. Others dig tunnels, or use tunnels made by other animals. A few build little walls or turrets around their tunnels, and then sit inside the wall looking out for passing prey or predators.

They are solitary animals, they hunt alone and only come together to mate.

How do they communicate with each other?

Wold spiders use their vision more than most other spider groups. Males often signal to females by waving their pedipalps in certain patterns. Wolf spiders are also very sensitive to vibrations in the ground, and use scent and taste as well.

What do they eat?

Wolf spiders eat insects and other invertebrates, and really large females might eat very small vertebrates, like amphibians and reptiles, if they find them. They sometimes attack insects that are larger than they are.

Different species of wolf spider have different ways of finding prey. Some build tunnels and ambush prey that come near their hiding place. Others wander on the ground, looking for small animals to eat. When they find a target, they jump on them and grab and quickly bite. Often they roll over onto their backs and hold the prey in a "basket" made by their legs before they bite.

  • Primary Diet
  • carnivore
    • eats terrestrial vertebrates
    • eats non-insect arthropods

What eats them and how do they avoid being eaten?

Wandering wolf spiders rely on speed and camouflage to escape predators. They have good vision and are very sensitive to vibrations in the ground that help them detect predators. Some species hide in tunnels in the ground. Wolf spiders will bite to defend themselves if necessary.

Do they cause problems?

Wolf spiders can give you a painful bite if you handle them carelessly, but it the bite usually doesn't do much damage unless the person bitten is allergic to the venom.

How do they interact with us?

Wolf spiders are often common in agricultural areas, and can be very helpful in reducing populations of insect pests.

  • Ways that people benefit from these animals:
  • controls pest population

Are they endangered?

No wolf spiders are known to be endangered.

  • IUCN Red List [Link]
    Not Evaluated

Some more information...

Wolf spiders get their name from the way some species chase and capture their prey like a little wolf. Their scientific name comes from the Ancient Greek word "lycosa", which means wolf.

Glossary

Australian

Living in Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania, New Guinea and associated islands.

World Map

Ethiopian

living in sub-Saharan Africa (south of 30 degrees north) and Madagascar.

World Map

Nearctic

living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.

World Map

Neotropical

living in the southern part of the New World. In other words, Central and South America.

World Map

Palearctic

living in the northern part of the Old World. In otherwords, Europe and Asia and northern Africa.

World Map

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends.

carnivore

an animal that mainly eats meat

chaparral

mid-altitude coastal areas with mild, rainy winters and long, dry summers. Dominant plant types are dense, evergreen shrubs.

crepuscular

active at dawn and dusk

desert or dunes

in deserts low (less than 30 cm per year) and unpredictable rainfall results in landscapes dominated by plants and animals adapted to aridity. Vegetation is typically sparse, though spectacular blooms may occur following rain. Deserts can be cold or warm and daily temperates typically fluctuate. In dune areas vegetation is also sparse and conditions are dry. This is because sand does not hold water well so little is available to plants. In dunes near seas and oceans this is compounded by the influence of salt in the air and soil. Salt limits the ability of plants to take up water through their roots.

diurnal
  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.
ectothermic

animals which must use heat acquired from the environment and behavioral adaptations to regulate body temperature

female parental care

parental care is carried out by females

fertilization

union of egg and spermatozoan

forest

forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.

internal fertilization

fertilization takes place within the female's body

marsh

marshes are wetland areas often dominated by grasses and reeds.

motile

having the capacity to move from one place to another.

mountains

This terrestrial biome includes summits of high mountains, either without vegetation or covered by low, tundra-like vegetation.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

nocturnal

active during the night

nomadic

generally wanders from place to place, usually within a well-defined range.

oriental

found in the oriental region of the world. In other words, India and southeast Asia.

World Map

oviparous

reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.

rainforest

rainforests, both temperate and tropical, are dominated by trees often forming a closed canopy with little light reaching the ground. Climbing plants are also abundant. There is plenty of moisture and rain, but may be somewhat seasonal.

scrub forest

scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season

sedentary

remains in the same area

sexual

reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female

solitary

lives alone

swamp

a wetland area that may be permanently or intermittently covered in water, often dominated by woody vegetation.

taiga

this biome is characterized by large expanses of coniferous forest, there is an extended cold season and heavy snowfall.

temperate

that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).

terrestrial

Living on the ground.

territorial

defends an area within the home range, occupied by a single animals or group of animals of the same species and held through overt defense, display, or advertisement

tropical

the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.

 
University of Michigan Museum of ZoologyNational Science Foundation

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. "Lycosidae" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 25, 2014 at http://www.biokids.umich.edu/accounts/Lycosidae/

BioKIDS is sponsored in part by the Interagency Education Research Initiative. It is a partnership of the University of Michigan School of Education, University of Michigan Museum of Zoology, and the Detroit Public Schools. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant DRL-0628151.
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