|female Ryuthela tanikawai|
|8 genera, 96 species|
The spider family Liphistiidae, recognized by Tamerlan Thorell in 1869, comprises 8 genera and about 100 species of medium sized spiders from Southeast Asia, China, and Japan. They are among the most basal living spiders, belonging to the suborder Mesothelae. In Japan, the kimura-gumo (Heptathela kimurai) is well known.
Liphistiidae are tube-dwelling spiders that construct rudimentary trap-doors. They spend most of their time here and are rarely seen above ground. The medium to large spiders range from eight to twenty-three millimeters long. They are characterized by their downward pointing, daggerlike chelicerae, and the segmented series of plates on the upper surface of the abdomen. The carapace is mostly flat, though it can be slightly elevated near the head. The eyes are distinctly clustered together on a single nodule. Anterior median eyes are small, but posterior median eyes are large and round. The lateral eyes are long and kidney-shaped. The distal leg segments have strong spines and three claws. Chelicerae are vertically attached to the cephalothorax. In the past, they were frequently believed to lack venom, but in 2010 it was shown that at least Liphistius species have venom glands.
They are active at night and live for many years. Although most species live in burrows, cave-dwelling species also fasten their retreats to the cave walls. Both burrows and retreats are sealed with woven doors. Trapdoor nests are generally built in shady areas with moss or sparse vegetation. Some make silk trip-lines radiating away from the burrow entrance. Adult males sometimes wander in search for females, but females rarely leave their burrows. The respiratory system consists only of book lungs, which could help explain why they are relatively inactive.
Three of the Liphistius species known to exist in Malaysia are endemic to only one or two caves. The most well known is Liphistius batuensis, which is found in Batu Caves. Other species that can be found in Malaysia include Liphistius malayanus, Liphistius murphyorum and Liphistius desultor. The Malaysian trapdoor spiders are protected by local law, though continuous threats come from loss of habitat and collection by exotic pet traders. It is believed that these species are endemic and once an isolated habitat is destroyed, the species may go extinct.
Although they have downward pointing chelicerae like the Mygalomorphae, there is no close relationship between the two. It is thought that the common ancestor of all spiders was orthognath and that in the Opisthothelae, comprising Mygalomorphae (mostly tarantulas) and Araneomorphae (all other spiders), only the Araneomorphae changed their alignment of chelicerae, while the mygalomorphs retained this symplesiomorphic feature.
- Ganthela Xu & Kuntner, 2015
- Heptathela Kishida, 1923 — Vietnam, Japan, China
- Liphistius Schiødte, 1849 — Southeast Asia
- Qiongthela Xu & Kuntner, 2015
- Ryuthela Haupt, 1983 — Ryukyu Islands, Okinawa
- Sinothela Haupt, 2003
- Songthela Ono, 2000
- Vinathela Ono, 2000
One genus of fossil spiders has been placed in this family:
- †Cretaceothele Wunderlich, 2015
While some Carboniferous fossil spiders have been assigned to Mesothelae, the only fossil to be explicitly placed in the family Liphistiidae is Cretaceothele lata Wunderlich, 2015 from the Cretaceous Burmese amber of Myanmar. The fossil genus was diagnosed as having an eye-field wider than that in living species.
- "Family: Liphistiidae Thorell, 1869 (genus list)". World Spider Catalog. Natural History Museum Bern. Retrieved 2015-11-10.
- "Currently valid spider genera and species", World Spider Catalog (Natural History Museum Bern), retrieved 2015-11-10
- Xu, X.; et al. (2015). "A genus-level taxonomic review of primitively segmented spiders (Mesothelae, Liphistiidae)". ZooKeys 488: 121–151. doi:10.3897/zookeys.488.8726.
- Haupt, J. (2004). "The Mesothelae - a monograph of an exceptional group of spiders (Araneae: Mesothelae)". Zoologica 154 (8). ISBN 3-510-55041-2. ISSN 0044-5088.
- Song, D.X.; Zhu, M.S.; Chen, J. (1999). The Spiders of China. Hebei University of Science and Technology Publishing House, Shijazhuang.
- Foelix, R. & Erb, B. (2010). "Short communication: Mesothelae have venom glands". The Journal of Arachnology 38: 596–598.
- Murphy, Frances; Murphy, John (2000). An Introduction to the Spiders of South East Asia. Malaysian Nature Society, Kuala Lumpur.
- Coddington, J.A.; Levi, H.W. (1991). "Systematics and Evolution of Spiders (Araneae)". Annu. Rev. Ecol. Syst. 22: 565-592. doi:10.1146/annurev.es.22.110191.003025.
- Caves of Malaysia
- Wunderlich, Jörg (2015). "On the evolution and classification of spiders, the Mesozoic spider faunas, and descriptions of new Cretaceous taxa mainly in amber from Myanmar (Burma) (Arachnida: Araneae)". Beiträge zur Araneologie 9: 21–408.
- Ono, H. (1999) Spiders of the genus Heptathela (Araneae, Liphistiidae) from Vietnam, with notes on their natural history. The Journal of Arachnology 27(1): 37-43. PDF
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