Giant house spider

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Giant house spider
Tegenaria gigantea.jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Arachnida
Order: Araneae
Family: Agelenidae
Genus: Eratigena
Species: E. atrica
Binomial name
Eratigena atrica
Simon, 1875
Distribution.tegenaria.duellica.png
Synonyms

Tegenaria gigantea

The giant house spider (or Eratigena atrica formerly known as Tegenaria atrica; sometimes also referred to as T. gigantea) is a member of the genus Eratigena[1] and is a close relative of both the domestic house spider and the infamous hobo spider. The bite of this species does not pose a threat to humans or pets, and is generally reluctant to bite whatsoever, preferring to escape.

Appearance[edit]

Female body size can reach 18.5 millimetres (0.73 in) in length (despite its name, smaller than Tegenaria parietina), with males having a slightly smaller body at around 12 to 15 millimetres (0.47 to 0.59 in) in length. The female leg span is typically around 45 millimetres (1.8 in). The leg span of the male is highly variable, with spans between 25 to 75 millimetres (0.98 to 2.95 in) being common.

The Giant house spider has the same coloration as the Domestic house spider; it has earthy tones of brown and muddy red or yellow. They also have conspicuously hairy legs, palps and abdomen.

Habitat[edit]

The giant house spider is indigenous to north western Europe. However, it was unwittingly introduced to the Pacific Northwest of North America circa 1900 due to human activity and strongly increased in numbers for the last century.

The webs built by the giant house spider are flat and messy with a funnel at one end. The spider lurks in the funnel until a small invertebrate happens to get trapped in the web, at which point the spider runs out and attacks it.

They usually build their webs in corners (on both the floor and ceiling), between boxes in basements, behind cupboards, in attics, or any other area that is rarely disturbed by large animals, or humans. Often found near window openings.

Males can often be seen wandering around houses during the late summer and early autumn looking for a mate.

Toxicity[edit]

Like most spiders, the spider possesses quite a potent venom to subdue its prey. Since E. atrica can penetrate regular human skin on normal occasions, the effects of agatoxin are more likely to be felt by the victim.

Speed[edit]

With speeds clocked at 1.73 ft/s (0.53 m/s) (1.18 mph), the giant house spider held the Guinness Book of World Records for top spider speed until 1987 when it was displaced by sun spiders (solifugids) although the latter are not true spiders as they belong to a different order.[2]

Relationship with Tegenaria agrestis[edit]

Tegenaria duellica can attain a leg span of up to 4 inches (100 mm). This specimen is approximately 3 inches (76 mm).
A moulting T. duellica.

A population of Giant house spiders is popularly thought to be a deterrent to the establishment of Tegenaria agrestis, known in North America as the hobo spider, and considered by some to be more likely to bite humans. Giant house spiders may compete with hobo spiders for the same resources. Hobo spiders grow no more than a body size of 15 millimetres (0.59 in) long whereas the larger female giant house spider can have a body size of 18 millimetres (0.71 in),[3] but has proportionately much longer legs.[4]

Taxonomy[edit]

This species was referred to as Tegenaria gigantea until 1995, when it was first suggested that this name was a synonym of T. duellica (published in 1875), making the latter the oldest available name. Other authors suggested that T. gigantea was a synonym of T.saeva, but molecular evidence shows that these are distinct taxa, not synonyms.[5]

Many arachnologists still prefer the name Tegenaria gigantea since there is no conclusive evidence that the T. gigantea found in the Pacific Northwest are indeed the same species as the T. duellica described by Eugène Simon in 1875. Simon's descriptions are vague, and the type specimens of duellica have been lost, preventing any direct comparison that would establish synonymy. Additionally, T. gigantea is not known to have spread outside of England before the 20th century, whereas Simon's type specimens for T. duellica are from Spain, which suggests that they are distinct species.

In popular culture[edit]

Humorist David Sedaris has written about his relationship with Tegenaria duellica. His essay "April & Paris" [6] documents his growing affection towards and domestic association with giant house spiders, particularly one named April. The essay can be found in the collection When You Are Engulfed in Flames.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Bolzern; Burckhardt, & Hänggi (2013). "Phylogeny and taxonomy of European funnel-web spiders of the Tegenaria-Malthonica complex (Araneae: Agelenidae) based upon morphological and molecular data.". Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 168: 723–848. doi:10.1111/zoj.12040. 
  2. ^ "Giant House Spider (Tegenaria gigantea)". Woodland Park Zoo. Retrieved 20 August 2013. 
  3. ^ "Species Tegenaria agrestis - Hobo Spider". BugGuide. Iowa State University. Retrieved 20 August 2013. 
  4. ^ "Species Tegenaria gigantea - Giant House Spider". BugGuide. Iowa State University. Retrieved 20 August 2013. 
  5. ^ Croucher, P. J. P.; Oxford, G. S.; Searle, J. B. (2004). "Mitochondrial differentiation, introgression and phylogeny of species in the Tegenaria atrica group (Araneae: Agelenidae)". Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 81: 79. doi:10.1111/j.1095-8312.2004.00280.x.  edit
  6. ^ "April & Paris". The New Yorker. Retrieved 14 September 2014.