Jewel Spider: Unlocking the Wonders of this Captivating Arachnid

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The Jewel Spider, also known as the Austracantha minax, is an eye-catching and uniquely designed spider native to Australia. These small creatures are known for their intricate web designs and striking appearance, often featuring vibrant colors and distinct, spiky abdomens.

While the Jewel Spider may seem intimidating due to its exotic looks, this species is actually quite harmless to humans. Occasionally found in gardens, Jewel Spiders are known to help control pest populations, making them beneficial inhabitants in some cases.

With their striking appearance and fascinating web-building skills, Jewel Spiders are both intriguing and valuable creatures to know more about. Their contributions to controlling pests and their captivating looks make them a fascinating subject for nature enthusiasts.

Jewel Spider Basics

Scientific Classification

The Jewel Spider, scientifically known as Araneus gemmoides, belongs to the phylum Arthropoda, class Arachnida, order Araneae, and family Araneidae1.

Size

Jewel Spiders are small-to-medium-sized spiders. Adult females measure about 6-9mm in body length, while males are smaller, averaging around 4-5mm1.

Common Name

The Jewel Spider is also known as the “Cat-faced Spider” or “Star Spider” due to the unique shape and patterns on their abdomen1.

Family

Jewel Spiders belong to the Araneidae family, which is commonly known as the “Orb-weaver family” due to their circular, well-organized webs1.

Genus

The genus Araneus consists of various orb-weaving spiders and includes over 650 species worldwide1.

Examples of other Araneus species:

  • Araneus diadematus (European Garden Spider)
  • Araneus angulatus (Corner Spider)

Comparison Table: Jewel Spider vs. European Garden Spider

Feature Jewel Spider (Araneus gemmoides) European Garden Spider (Araneus diadematus)
Size 6-9mm (females), 4-5mm (males) 12-15mm (females), 5-9mm (males)
Web Orb-web Orb-web
Habitat North America Europe, North America

Characteristics of Jewel Spiders:

  • Small-to-medium-sized spiders
  • Unique abdomen shape and patterns
  • Orb-web weavers

Pros and Cons of Jewel Spiders in the ecosystem:

Pros:

  • Predators of insects, helping to control pest populations
  • Part of the food chain, providing nourishment for other animals

Cons:

  • Can cause fear or discomfort in humans due to their appearance

Physical Appearance

Colors

Jewel spiders exhibit a variety of vibrant colors, often combining metallic shades of green, blue, and red. These colors serve as a form of camouflage among vegetation and can attract prey.

Legs

  • Jewel spiders have eight legs, just like other spiders.
  • Their legs are covered in spines to help with mobility and capturing prey.

Spines

  • The spines on a jewel spider’s legs are thin and elongated, providing better grip and defense.
  • Spines can vary in length and are sometimes brightly colored.

Chelicerae

  • Jewel spiders have two chelicerae, which are the mouthparts that contain their fangs.
  • Their chelicerae are short but powerful, enabling them to inject venom into their prey.

Pedipalps

  • Pedipalps are located near the chelicerae and serve as sensory organs.
  • In male jewel spiders, pedipalps are enlarged and modified for mating purposes.

Eyes

  • Jewel spiders possess eight eyes arranged in two rows.
  • Their eyes vary in size, with the anterior median pair being the largest.

Sexual Dimorphism

Males Females
Size Smaller Larger
Coloration Duller colors Brighter colors
Pedipalps Enlarged Not enlarged
  • Sexual dimorphism is evident in jewel spiders, with females being larger and more brightly colored than males.
  • Males have enlarged pedipalps for mating.

Colour Polymorphism

  • Jewel spiders display color polymorphism, meaning individuals within the same species can have different color patterns.
  • This characteristic helps them adapt to different environments and avoid predation.

Habitat and Distribution

Regions

The Jewel spider, also known as the golden silk orb-weaver, can be found in various regions around the world. They are mainly distributed in:

  • Australia
  • Texas
  • Other parts of the United States
  • Asia
  • Africa

Habitat

Jewel spiders prefer to inhabit:

  • Gardens
  • Forests
  • Grassy areas
  • Bushland

They are usually found in areas with a dense plant population, where they can build their orb-shaped webs to capture prey.

Endemic

Jewel spiders are native to:

  • Australia (common in the coastal regions)
  • Southern Texas in the United States
  • Other parts of the United States

In these regions, they have adapted to the local environmental conditions and are a crucial part of the ecosystem.

Environmental Conditions

These spiders can thrive in various environmental conditions. They prefer:

  • Warm, humid climates
  • Areas with abundant sunlight (for web-building)
  • Dense plant life (provides anchor points for webs)
Region Climate Plant Density
Australia Warm High
Texas Warm High
United States Mild Moderate

In conclusion, knowing more about the Jewel spider’s habitat and distribution can help us appreciate and conserve them. Always remember: maintaining biodiversity is crucial for a healthy ecosystem.

Diet and Hunting Technique

Prey

Jewel spiders primarily feast on small insects like:

  • Flies
  • Mosquitoes
  • Moths

Venom

The venom of a jewel spider is effective in breaking down these insects’ bodies for consumption. While its venom is harmless to humans, it paralyzes the prey for easy digestion.

Examples of venom effects:

  • Paralysis
  • Tissue breakdown
  • Easier digestion

Flying Insects

Jewel spiders have a unique hunting technique to catch flying insects, which includes:

  • Building orb-shaped webs
  • Using their third claw to assist in web weaving
  • Creating zig-zag patterns in the web center

Comparing flying insect prey capture:

Insect Attraction to Web
Flies Web’s sticky silk
Moths Web’s ultraviolet light reflection

Using their webs, jewel spiders efficiently catch flying insects and immobilize them with their venom. The specialized weaving technique and venom make them successful predators.

Reproduction And Lifecycle

Reproduction

Jewel Spiders, also known as Austracantha minax, reproduce sexually. They are dioecious, meaning males and females have distinct reproductive organs.

Mating

Mating in Jewel Spiders involves complex courtship rituals, where the male presents himself to the female. If the female finds the male suitable, she will allow him to mate.

Courtship

Courtship consists of the male performing a series of dances, leg tapping, and other displays. This is to prove his worthiness and prevent being mistaken for prey.

Sex

During sex, jewel spider males transfer sperm to the female through specialized appendages called pedipalps.

Spermatophores

Males deposit spermatophores, small packets containing sperm, into the female’s genital opening. The spermatophores release sperm that fertilize the female’s eggs.

Spiderlings

  • Jewel spider’s offspring are called spiderlings.
  • They hatch from fertilized eggs and develop within egg sacs.

Egg Sacs

  • Egg sacs are intricately woven, silk structures made by female jewel spiders.
  • These sacs protect eggs and developing spiderlings until they’re ready to hatch.

In summary, Jewel Spiders reproduce through sexual reproduction involving complex courtship rituals, mating, and the transfer of spermatophores. Female spiders lay fertilized eggs that develop into spiderlings within protective egg sacs.

Different Jewel Spider Species

Brazilian Jewel Tarantula

The Brazilian Jewel Tarantula (Typhochlaena seladonia) is a stunning, small-sized tarantula with bright colors and intricate patterns, making it a popular choice for enthusiasts. They are native to Brazil and typically found in the Atlantic forest region. Some features include:

  • Bright colors like green, blue, and orange
  • Intricate patterns on their abdomen
  • Size: 3-3.5 cm (1-1.4 inches)

Gasteracantha Minax

The Gasteracantha Minax, commonly known as the Spiny Orb-Weaver, is widespread throughout Asia and Africa. They are characterized by their unique abdomen shape and vibrant colors. Key features include:

  • Bright red or yellow on a black body
  • Six strong spines on the abdomen
  • Size: 5-9 mm (female), 2-3 mm (male)

Christmas Spider

Also known as the Australian Jewel Spider (Austracantha minax), this spider is native to Australia. They are found in vegetation and create small orb webs. Unique characteristics include:

  • Vibrant orange-red, creamy yellow, and black coloration
  • Six spines on the abdomen (similar to Gasteracantha Minax)
  • Size: 7-10 mm (female), 3-4 mm (male)

Bark Jewel Spider

Bark Jewel Spiders (Heteropoda davidbowie) are mainly found in Malaysia and have been named after the famous musician David Bowie. They have striking patterns and blend in with tree bark. Key features:

  • Yellow-brown with black markings
  • Large eyes and impressive leg span
  • Size: 15-20 mm

Trap Door

Trap Door Spiders (Cteniza spp.) are known for their unusual burrow construction, using a hinged door made of silk and soil. They are mainly found in the Mediterranean region and North Africa. Notable features:

  • Brown to black coloration
  • Burrow-dwelling with unique trap door
  • Size: 12-32 mm (female), 10-15 mm (male)
Species Size (Female) Size (Male) Unique Features
Brazilian Jewel Tarantula 3-3.5 cm Bright colors, intricate abdomen pattern
Gasteracantha Minax 5-9 mm 2-3 mm Six abdominal spines, vibrant colors
Christmas Spider 7-10 mm 3-4 mm Vibrant colors, six spines
Bark Jewel Spider 15-20 mm Camouflage, large leg span
Trap Door Spider 12-32 mm 10-15 mm Unique burrow, trap door construction

Interactions With Humans

Harmless to Humans

The Jewel Spider is harmless to humans, and poses no significant threat. Although a bite may occur if the spider is roughly handled, it is quite rare.

Swelling

In the event of a bite, it could cause temporary swelling and irritation, similar to a mosquito bite. But it’s important to note that most Jewel Spider bites are of no serious concern.

Arachnophobia

Many people suffer from arachnophobia, which is an irrational fear of spiders. Although the Jewel Spider is not dangerous to humans, its presence can still cause anxiety for those with arachnophobia. It is essential to remember that this spider is not a threat and can even be helpful in controlling pest populations in gardens and homes.

Spider Bite Effects Dangerous to Humans
Jewel Spider Swelling No

Jewel Spider Community Behaviors

Communal Webs

Jewel spiders, also known as Austracantha minax, are known for their unique ability to create communal webs. A few key features of these webs include:

  • Multiple spiders sharing the same web
  • Webs built close to each other, creating a network
  • Cooperation in catching prey and maintaining the web

An example of such communal living can be seen in Australia, where groups of jewel spiders are often found building their webs close together in large clusters.

Behaviour

Jewel spiders exhibit fascinating behaviors, especially when observed in a communal setting. Some noteworthy behaviors are:

  • Guarding their webs against potential threats
  • Attracting prey by the female’s bright coloration
  • Males performing courtship rituals to impress females

In comparison to solitary spiders, who build and maintain their webs alone, jewel spiders demonstrate a sense of cooperation and community.

Interesting Facts and Trivia

History

The Jewel Spider, also known as the golden silk spider, is a fascinating species. They are known for their vibrant colors and intricate webs.

Uses

Some Jewel Spiders are used for:

  • Silk production: Their strong and golden silk has applications in textiles.
  • Pest control: Being natural predators, they help control insect populations.

Gifts

Jewel spiders can’t be given as pets or gifts due to their wild nature. However, you can find spider-inspired gifts like:

  • Jewelry: Earrings, pendants, or cufflinks with a spider motif.
  • Artwork: paintings, prints, or web-patterned items.

Benefits

Jewel spiders are beneficial for:

  • Ecosystem balance: helping maintain a healthy balance of insects in their environment.
  • Pollination: These spiders unintentionally aid in plant pollination while navigating their webs.

Leg Span

Jewel spiders have varying leg spans, depending on factors like age, gender, and species. For example, the golden silk spider has leg spans ranging from 1 to 6 inches. As a species, here are some features and characteristics:

  • Metallic and vibrant colors
  • Orb-shaped webs
  • Females often larger than males

Comparison Table

Jewel Spider Orb Weaver Spider
Size 1-6 inches 0.1-1 inch
Web Orb-shaped Circular
Colors Metallic Varied

Footnotes

  1. https://bugguide.net/node/view/3361 2 3 4 5

Authors

  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

    View all posts
  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

    View all posts
Tags: Jewel Spider

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