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Assassin spiders
Austrarchaea sp..jpg
Austrarchaea sp.
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Arachnida
Order: Araneae
Suborder: Araneomorphae
Family: Archaeidae
C. L. Koch & Berendt, 1854

see text

3 genera, 28 species

The Archaeidae are a spider family with 25 described species in three genera. Commonly known as assassin spiders, they are also known as pelican spider stemming from their specialised anatomy: they have elongated chelicerae (jaws) and necks for catching other spiders.


Archaeidae occur in South Africa, Madagascar and Australia.

Assassin spiders[edit]

Assassin spiders, also known as the Spidsnuck, are a group of spiders of the families Archaeidae and Mecysmaucheniidae, which are extremely unusual in that they have "necks," which can be very long and slender or short and fat. Archaeids prey only upon other spiders, while mecysmaucheniids seem to be generalists. Assassin spiders were first known from 40 million year old amber fossils, which were found in Europe in the 1840s, and were not known to have living varieties until 1881, when the first living assassin spider was found in Madagascar. They are native to Australia, South Africa, and Madagascar, with the sister family Mecysmaucheniidae occurring in Southern South America and New Zealand. They range in size from 2-8 mm.

The fossil record of this family was first identified from Baltic amber dating to the Eocene, although many taxa from these deposits have been reassigned to Mecysmaucheniidae, Pararchaeidae and Holarchaeidae. Currently valid Baltic species include Archaea levigata and Archaea paradoxa. In 2003, Afarchaea grimaldii was described from Cretaceous Burmese amber aged between 88-95 million years, extending the record of this group considerably.


Austrarchaea griswoldi from Eungella National Park, Australia
Zephyrarchaea mainae from Bremer Bay, Western Australia

  • Jurarchaea zherikhini Eskov, 1987 was previously considered a member of this family, but it is more likely a holarchaeid or a pararchaeid.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Rix, Michael; Harvey, Mark (2012). "Australian Assassins, Part II: A review of the new assassin spider genus Zephyrarchaea (Araneae, Archaeidae) from southern Australia". ZooKeys 191: 1–62. doi:10.3897/zookeys.191.3070. 
  • Penney D. (2003) Afrarchaea grimaldii, a new species of Archaeidae (Araneae) in Cretaceous Burmese amber. Journal of Arachnology 31, 122-130. PDF
  • Platnick, Norman I. (2008): The world spider catalog, version 8.5. American Museum of Natural History.

External links[edit]