Pholcus phalangioides

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Pholcus phalangioides
With cranefly prey (spiderlings visible at right)
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Subphylum: Chelicerata
Class: Arachnida
Order: Araneae
Infraorder: Araneomorphae
Family: Pholcidae
Genus: Pholcus
P. phalangioides
Binomial name
Pholcus phalangioides
Füssli, 1775
Feeding on an ant

Pholcus phalangioides, also known as the longbodied cellar spider is a spider of the family Pholcidae. It is also known as the skull spider due its cephalothorax resembling a human skull.

Females have a body length of about 8 mm and males are slightly smaller. The length of its legs are about 5 or 6 times the length of its body (reaching a legspan up to 7 cm in females).

Pholcus phalangioides has a habit of living on the ceilings of rooms, caves, garages or cellars. This spider species is considered beneficial in parts of the world because it kills and eats other spiders, including dangerous species such as hobo and redback spiders.[1][2]

This is the only spider species described by the Swiss entomologist Johann Kaspar Füssli, who first recorded it for science in 1775.[3] Confusion often arises over its common name, because "daddy long-legs" is also applied to two other distantly related arthropods: one being Opiliones, another order of arachnid known also as a "harvestman", the other an insect less ambiguously called the crane fly.


Originally a species restricted to warmer parts of the west Palearctic,[4][better source needed] through the help of humans this synanthrope now occurs throughout a large part of the world.[1][better source needed] It is unable to survive in cold weather, and consequently it is restricted to (heated) houses in some parts of its range.


Fighting Pholcus phalangioides

Pholcus phalangioides is not considered aggressive, its first line of defense being to shake its web violently when disturbed as a mechanism against predators. It can easily catch and eat other spiders (even those much larger than itself, such as Eratigena atrica[citation needed]), mosquitoes and other insects, and woodlice. When food is scarce, it will prey on its own kind. Rough handling will cause some of its legs to become detached.

Peak breeding in this species occurs between June and September.[5] The female holds the 20 to 30[citation needed] eggs in her pedipalps.[5] Spiderlings are transparent with short legs, and change their skin about 5 or 6 times as they mature.

P. phalangioides has been recorded invading foreign webs and eating the host spiders.[6]


An urban legend states that Pholcidae are the most venomous spiders in the world but that it is nevertheless harmless to humans because its fangs cannot penetrate human skin. Both of these claims have been proven untrue. Recent research has shown that pholcid venom has a relatively weak effect on insects.[7] In the MythBusters episode "Daddy Long-Legs" it was shown that the spider's fangs (0.25 mm) could penetrate human skin (0.1 mm), but that only a very mild burning feeling was felt for a few seconds.[8]



  1. ^ a b Daddy Long Legs – Queensland Museum
  2. ^ FAMILY PHOLCIDAE – Daddy long-leg Spiders
  3. ^ "The Nearctic Spider Database: Pholcus phalangioides (Fuesslin, 1775) Description". Archived from the original on 6 November 2009. Retrieved 28 August 2016.
  4. ^ Adams, Richard J. (28 January 2014). Field Guide to the Spiders of California and the Pacific Coast States. p. 73. ISBN 9780520957046. Retrieved 8 September 2016.
  5. ^ a b Ferrick, A. (2002). "ADW: Pholcus phalangioides: INFORMATION". Animal Diversity Web. Retrieved 28 August 2016.
  6. ^ Jackson, Robert R.; Rowe, R. J. (1 January 1987). "Web-invasion and araneophagy by New Zealand and Australian pholcid spiders". New Zealand Journal of Zoology. 14 (1): 139–140. doi:10.1080/03014223.1987.10422692. ISSN 0301-4223.
  7. ^ Spider Myths – If it could only bite
  8. ^ "Buried in Concrete, Daddy Long-legs, Jet Taxi". MythBusters. Season 2004. Episode 13. 25 February 2004. Discovery Channel. Archived from the original on 11 March 2011. Retrieved 11 February 2011.

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