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Various labidognath spiders


Arachnida; Araneae; Arachnomorphae (Labidognatha)

Common names


Labidognath spiders include by far the greatest number of species amongst the spiders. Besides the medically important and relatively well-documented genera Latrodectus, Loxosceles and Phoneutria there are a number of other labidognath spiders that have caused significant cases of envenoming or are classed as potentially dangerous. In particular, necrotising spider bites, such as are typical for Loxosceles spp., may also occur following bites by medically less well known spiders.


Miturgidae (Prowling spiders): Chiracanthium spp. This genus was previously included in Clubionidae (Sac spiders) and comprises about 180 species worldwide, particularly in warmer zones. Smaller spiders with a body length of 0.7–1.5 cm and comparatively large venomous fangs. Some species commonly establish themselves in human habitations. This is where most bites occur. Envenoming is known to have been caused by: C. mildei, C. inclusum and C. diversum (= C. mordax) in the USA, the latter also in Hawaii (Furman and Reeves 1957, Gorham and Rheney 1968, Spielman and Levi 1970, Minton 1972). C. punctorium (Yellow sac spider) in Europe, possibly also Russia and China (Maretic 1962, 1979, Wolf 1988). C. lawrencei (= C. furculatum) in South Africa (Newlands and De Meillon 1987). C. japonicum in Japan, possibly also in China and Korea (Ori 1984).


Lycosidae (Wolf spiders): Lycosa spp. (Taranteln, "True" tarantulas): sturdy spiders with well developed venomous fangs. Body length of the largest species up to 3.5 cm. Primarily nocturnal spiders that actively hunt their prey on the ground. Live in a variety of habitats. Mostly under foliage, debris or stones.

In everyday language in the USA, Bird spiders are mistakenly named "Tarantulas". There also appears to be confusion with regard to the so-called "tarantism" syndrome described in previous centuries in southern Europe. Today it is assumed that this syndrome, which, according to various lore, is marked by hysterical behaviour as well as physical symptoms, was not caused by the Apulian Tarantula (Lycosa tarentula), but actually by the Black widow (Latrodectus tredecimguttatus). Bites from the European Lycosa tarentula usually only cause mild local effects. However, there has been one case with extensive necrosis (Maretic and Lebez 1979). Cases of severe envenoming with extensive necrosis caused by Lycosa erythognatha (= Scaptocosa raptoria) were described in the first half of last century in Brazil. However, today there are doubts about the authenticity of these cases, and it is conjectured that the actual cause might have been Loxosceles sp. In over 500 taxonomically identified bites caused by L. erythrognatha from the area around São Paulo, local pain (in some cases accompanied by swelling and erythema) was the only consequence; necroses were never observed (Ribeiro et al. 1990).


Sicariidae: one case in which the spider causing the bite was not conclusively identified and in which severe necrosis developed was attributed to Sicarius spatulatus from southwest Africa (Newlands 1982). On the basis of results from animal experiments, Sicarius sp. in South America and in southwest Africa are classed as potentially dangerous. Newlands speculates that necrotising spider bites in which the spider that caused the bite is not identified but is assumed to be a Loxosceles sp. could well be caused by Sicarius sp.


Araneidae (Orb-weaver spiders): one case from Croatia with systemic envenoming caused by the species Aranea sexpunctata (the Cross spider also belongs to this genus), which is widespread in Europe (Maretic and Milna 1976).


Salticidae (Jumping spiders): bites from Phidippus formosus (= P. johnsoni) in California and Mopsus mormon in Australia have occasionally led to local symptoms of envenoming (pain, swelling and erythema or pruritus), which in some cases only disappeared again after a week (Russell 1970, Bettini and Brignoli 1978).


Classification according to The World Spider Catalog.