As if spiders weren’t strange enough creatures, with their eight legs and eight eyes, some seem to have even donned fur coats that would put any grizzly bear to shame! The spiders we're about to present almost look as if they’ve come from outer space. It doesn’t matter that many of them aren't even an inch tall: macro photography makes them look like alien giants. But see for yourself.
When distinguishing spiders, one prominent question is: how many eyes do they have, are they all the same size, and in how many rows are they arranged? The question of whether they’re hairy or not doesn't concern us today: we’re only going to look at hairy critters!
5. Orb-weaver Spiders
A very hairy orb weaver in action
Orb-weaver spiders belong to the Araneidae family and are named for their wheel-shaped webs. With 2,800 species, theirs is the third largest family of spiders. Orb weavers have eight similar eyes (yup, that’s right – eight!) and eight legs that are often hairy or spiny.
Time for a shave
This spider belongs to the family of Eriophora heroine, or Eriophora pustuosa, commonly found throughout the Americas, Australasia and Africa.
And time for a leg wax!
This cute little spider takes a break on some pink flowers.
4. Wolf Spiders
This one is in need of a trim!
Wolf spiders belong to the family of Lycosidae and are known for their good eyesight and hunting abilities. Some pounce on their prey and even chase it over short distances, while other species prefer their prey to come to them. In contrast to some other spiders, the wolf spider has a coloration that is drab, as it relies on camouflage.
This one’s displaying all its hairiness.
Though usually harmless to humans, wolf spiders do release venom if provoked. Their bites may cause swelling, itching or other discomfort.
A female wolf spider
Here, a female wolf spider chills out in her web. Is she waiting for a male, or a tasty snack?
A startled wolf spider
Wolf spiders can be twitchy, and this one looks as if it was taken by surprise!
3. Peacock Spiders
Not sure why they’re called peacock spiders?
The Peacock, or Gliding, spiders (Maratus volans) are tiny spiders (only 4 or 5 mm long) native to Australia’s Queensland and New South Wales. As drab as the females and young spiders may look in their brownish coat, the adult males make up for it in color: their head and leg parts are dark brown or black with red and grey stripes, while the abdomen shows a rainbow-colored pattern in orange, green, blue and yellow.
Male flaunting his colorful butt
But that’s not all. The male has two skin flaps attached to its abdomen that hang down, somewhat like a cape, when not in use. During the courtship dance, males fold these colorful flaps up and display them like a peacock does its feathers. The males also dance from side to side to impress the females. And after successful mating with one, they start over with their dance, hoping to get lucky again.
Interestingly, it was initially assumed that the flaps were used for flying, but this is a myth that has been debunked by the Australasian Arachnological Society.
Just take a look at those fangs!
Tarantulas are probably the best-known hairy spiders, to no little extent because of mainstream movies exploiting them whenever arachnophobia is evoked. That said, their hunting behavior, eight hairy legs with claws at the end, and two prominent fangs do make them look quite outlandish. Look at this Asian bird-eater from the Haplopelma genus, for example.
Photographer Matt describes his attempts to snap Petunia, the spider thus:
“I was trying to photograph Petunia, but she kept attacking the camera (seriously!), so most shots didn't turn out... You should have seen me trying to get her from her enclosure to the shooting area. I tried to shoo her into a cup, but when you tap her back end to make her go forward, she instead turns around to attack what's tapping her.”
A Pterinochilus murinus female called Charm who reminds us of an orangutan
In case you were wondering, the tarantula’s hairs, called scopula, help it get a better grip when climbing smooth surfaces – glass, for example. New World tarantulas have urticating hairs on their abdomen as a defense mechanism. These hairs are meant to irritate sensitive areas of an enemy’s body, like the nose, and can even detach.
A Huntsman tarantula, clinging on, waiting
Tarantulas belong to the family of Theraposidae, of which around 900 species have been identified so far. Thinking back to our first tarantula image, we find it interesting that the tarantula’s mouth can only suck, not chew, meaning that anything going inside must be fluid. However, this doesn’t mean that tarantulas only eat a liquid diet – oh no! Prey with solid parts – like lizards, mice and even birds – will be predigested by being coated with digestive juices, which the spider then slurps up like soup. We thought you might want to know.
1. Jumping spiders
A female Phidippus audax: Take me to your leader!
Last but not least, our favorites: jumping spiders! These little critters are colorful and cute, and their distinct eye pattern really makes them seem out of this world. Jumping spiders belong to the Salticidae family – the largest of all, with over 5,000 species. They're named after their transportation style, which consists of jumping from place to place, secured with a silk thread. Jumping spiders can jump 20 to 80 times the length of their own bodies!
And a full view of the hairy beauty
This spider's pretty coloring is so eye-catching, and the leaves give an idea of how tiny it is.
Not quite the same group, but close – a male Phidippus mystaceus
Like tarantulas, jumping spiders can climb up almost impossibly slippery surfaces like glass because of the scopula – hundreds of tiny hairs at the end of each leg that split into hundreds more, thus creating thousands of tiny 'feet'.
Eye can see you.
Here's a male Hentzia palmarum, his eyes glittering in the light.
"Hello. Don't you look strange with only two legs?"
That we’re able to show more images of jumping spiders than any other spider family is perhaps no coincidence: jumping spiders are said to be the most curious of all. If faced with an unknown object, like a hand, they won't scuttle to safety like other spiders but instead will come closer to check it out. Good for us!
A somewhat grandfatherly looking male Habronatus coecatus
This spider is just chilling out, but he's keeping his eyes on the camera all the same.
Look into my eyes, baby: Super macro of a male Paraphidippus aurantius
The Paraphidippus aurantius pictured here met an unfortunate end. After he had devoured a cricket, a stronger and bigger female spotted and killed him. Says photographer Thomas Shahan: “The female found and killed the male without any help from me – she was bigger, quicker, and apparently stronger than the male and seemed to have no trouble getting him.”
Such is life! Even alien-looking, hairy spiders are not immortal – yet?
Here is the aforementioned video of the brutal end to the tale...