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Temporal range: Palaeogene–present
Corsican Trapdoor Spider (Cteniza sauvagesi) (16586173944).jpg
Cteniza sauvagesi
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Subphylum: Chelicerata
Class: Arachnida
Order: Araneae
Infraorder: Mygalomorphae
Clade: Avicularioidea
Family: Ctenizidae
Thorell, 1887

See text

3 genera, 53 species

Ctenizidae is a small family of medium-sized[example needed] mygalomorph spiders that construct burrows with a cork-like trapdoor made of soil, vegetation and silk. They may be called trapdoor spiders, as are similar species, such as those of the families Liphistiidae, Barychelidae, Cyrtaucheniidae and some species in Idiopidae and Nemesiidae. In 2018, the family Halonoproctidae was split off from Ctenizidae, leaving only three genera.


The name derives from Greek κτενὶζειν ktenizein, meaning "combing" or "cleaning", referring to their behaviour of cleaning continuously, and the suffix -idae, which designates belonging to a family.[citation needed]


The family Ctenizidae was first described by Thorell in 1887, being based on the genus Cteniza.[2] Since the advent of molecular phylogenetics and its application to spiders, the family has been progressively dismantled;[3] the World Spider Catalog lists over 100 genera formerly placed in Ctenizidae but now transferred to other families.[2] The Halonoproctidae were split off in 2018, leaving only three genera. Even so, the family is not monophyletic, since Stasimopus is not in the same clade as the other two genera, according to a 2018 study (the three genera then left in Ctenizidae are shaded in yellow):[3]


Heteromigas (Migidae)

Idiops (Idiopidae)

Myrmekiaphila (Euctenizidae)




Stasimopus was later transferred to its own family, Stasimopidae.


Extinct genera

Ecology and behaviour[edit]

Closed burrow of Cork-lid Trapdoor spider saved in padded container. Probable genus: Stasimopus
Trapdoor spider burrow opened to show inside of corridor
Trapdoor spider burrow opened to show inside of lid with its ring of punctures where the spider had gripped.

The trapdoor is difficult to see when it is closed because the plant and soil materials effectively camouflage it. The trapdoor is hinged on one side with silk. The spiders, which are usually nocturnal, typically wait for prey while holding on to the underside of the door with the claws on their tarsi. Prey is captured when insects, other arthropods, or small vertebrates disturb the 'trip' lines the spider lays out around its trapdoor, alerting the spider to a meal within reach. The spider detects the prey by vibrations and, when it comes close enough, leaps out of its burrow to make the capture.

A hungry individual will wait halfway outside its burrow for a meal. Male trapdoor spiders can overcome the female's aggressive reactions to their approach, but it is not known how. Females never travel far from their burrows, especially if they have an egg sac. During this time, the female will capture food and regurgitate it to feed her spiderlings. Enemies of the trapdoor spider include certain pompilids (spider wasps), which seek out the burrows and manage to gain entrance. They sting the owner and lay their eggs (usually one per spider) on its body. When the egg hatches, the larva devours the spider alive.

Unlike other mygalomorph spiders, the Ctenizidae have a rastellum on the chelicera. Resembling "teeth" or "barbs" on each fang, this modification is used to dig and gather soil while constructing a burrow.[5] They use their pedipalps and first legs to hold the trapdoor closed when disturbed.[6]

There are about 50 species of Ctenizidae.

The spider wasps of the subfamily Ctenocerinae found in the Neotropics, Africa and Australia are specialised hunters of trapdoor spiders.[7]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

Genera of Ctenizidae are found in Europe, Asia and South Africa. They may be more common than thought because of their cryptic habits. They do tend to be localized in distribution and as such may be subject to extinction because of local habitat destruction. Most species live in burrows rather than webs. They make silk hinged doors that blend with their habitat. Not all members of the family use trapdoors.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Currently valid spider genera and species", World Spider Catalog, Natural History Museum Bern, retrieved 2018-05-16
  2. ^ a b "Family Ctenizidae Thorell, 1887", World Spider Catalog, Natural History Museum Bern, retrieved 2018-05-24
  3. ^ a b Godwin, Rebecca L.; Opatova, Vera; Garrison, Nicole L.; Hamilton, Chris A. & Bond, Jason E. (2018-09-01), "Phylogeny of a cosmopolitan family of morphologically conserved trapdoor spiders (Mygalomorphae, Ctenizidae) using Anchored Hybrid Enrichment, with a description of the family, Halonoproctidae Pocock 1901", Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 126: 303–313, doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2018.04.008, PMID 29656103
  4. ^ a b Eskov, K. Y.; Zonstein, S. L. (2000). "The First Ctenizoid Mygalomorph Spiders from Eocene Baltic Amber (Araneida: Mygalomorphae: Ctenizidae)". Paleontological Journal. 34 (suppl. 3): S268–S274. Part 1; Part 2 (PDF).
  5. ^ Holm, Erik, Dippenaar-Schoeman, Ansie; Goggo Guide; LAPA publishers (URL: WWW.LAPA.co.za). 2010
  6. ^ Tso et al. 2003
  7. ^ Evans H.E. 1972 The Tribe Ctenoceratini in Australia Aust. J. Entomol. 11(3) 244-252


  • Raven, R.J. 1985 The spider Infraorder Mygalomorphae (Araneae): cladistics and systematics. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 182: 1-180.
  • Murphy, Frances & Murphy, John (2000): An Introduction to the Spiders of South East Asia. Malaysian Nature Society, Kuala Lumpur.
  • Tso, I.; Haupt, J. & Zhu, M. (2003): The trapdoor spider family Ctenizidae (Arachnida: Araneae) from Taiwan. The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology 51(1): 25-33. PDF (Ummidia and Latouchia)
  • Hendrixson, B.E. & Bond, J.E. (2004): A new species of Stasimopus from the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa (Araneae, Mygalomorphae, Ctenizidae), with notes on its natural history. Zootaxa 619: 1-14. PDF

External links[edit]