Help identifying African spider
Sat, Oct 25, 2008 at 10:04 AM
I took this photo in The Gambia last week and am having trouble identifying it. It looks a little like the Golden Orb Weaver but the marking look a little different.
Your spider is a Golden Silk Spider in the Genus Nephila. There is currently a photo making the rounds on the internet of an Australian Nephila species, probably Nephila maculata, that has captured a bird, a Chestnut Breasted Mannikin, in its web. Several readers have sent us that photo but we don’t publish third party photos unknowingly without getting the photographer’s permission. Telegraph.UK.co calls that spider a Golden Orb Weaver, but using common names can cause confusion since that common name refers to a different species, Argiope aurantia, in the U.S. We like Golden Silk Spider since the color of the silk is really Golden. Wikipedia refers to the Nephila species as the Golden Silk Orb-Weavers. There was an effort at one time to weave the silk of the Nephila species into fabric because of its strength. The strength of the silk allows the Golden Silk Spider to occasionally capture a small bird. The silk of the American Golden Orb Weaver is also quite strong, and we have photos submitted to our site of an Argiope aurantia feeding on a hummingbird. The only American species of Nephila is Nephila clavipes, also called a Banana Spider, but that common name also refers to other species of spiders. All we can say for certain regarding your lovely photo is that it is in the genus Nephila, and that we prefer the common name Golden Silk Spider.