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Recluse spider

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Recluse spider
Temporal range: Neogene– Present
Loxosceles gaucho, Brazil
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Subphylum: Chelicerata
Class: Arachnida
Order: Araneae
Infraorder: Araneomorphae
Family: Sicariidae
Genus: Loxosceles
Heineken & Lowe, 1832[1]
Type species
L. rufescens
(Dufour, 1820)

143, see text


The recluse spiders (Loxosceles (/lɒkˈsɒsɪlz/), also known as brown spiders, fiddle-backs, violin spiders, and reapers, is a genus of spiders that was first described by R. T. Lowe in 1832.[4] They are venomous spiders known for their bite, which sometimes produces a characteristic set of symptoms known as loxoscelism.

Recluse spiders are now identified as members of the family Sicariidae, having formerly been placed in their own family, the Loxoscelidae. Although recluse spiders are feared, they are usually not aggressive.[5]

Relation with other spiders[edit]

Sicariidae are of the superfamily Scytodoidea. Other families in the Scytodoidea include Drymusidae, Scytodidae, and Periegopidae.

Habitat and appearance[edit]

The eye arrangement of spiders in the genus Loxosceles

Loxosceles is distributed nearly worldwide in warmer areas. All have six eyes arranged in three groups of two (dyads) and some are brownish with a darker brown characteristic violin marking on the cephalothorax. However, the "violin marking" cannot be used as a reliable way to identify the spider as many unrelated species of spider have similar markings. Recluses are typically about 7–12 mm long.

The most common and most famous species in the United States is the brown recluse spider (Loxosceles reclusa). It is found in a large area of the Midwest, west to Colorado and the New Mexico state line and east to northern Georgia. Sporadic records from other locations only represent incidental introductions, not established populations.[6] The brown recluse feeds on whatever small prey is available, and has been observed to prefer scavenging over actively hunting.[7] Other notable members of this genus include the Chilean recluse spider (L. laeta) and the Mediterranean recluse spider (L. rufescens).

Recently, concerns have been raised regarding recluses spreading faster due to warmer air carrying them farther as a result of changing climate. On the contrary, newly hatched recluses do not travel via ballooning and thus the populations are confined to very tight spaces with dense populations.[8] Most Loxosceles can live for one and a half to two years. Many species of this genus can live for very long times without food or water. Insecticides often fail to kill the spider, instead intoxicating its nervous system and inducing erratic behavior.[9]


This genus is very hard to identify, as they have very simple coloration and morphology. Many other spiders have similar dorsal markings, leading to confusion and misidentification. They can be most readily distinguished by having 6 eyes, arranged in three pairs. None of the pairs of eyes touch each other, and are arranged in a U shape. The presence of two claws per foot and a rather flat cephalothorax further help distinguish them.[10][11]

Venom components and effects[edit]

Loxosceles spiders, like Hexophthalma species, have potent tissue-destroying venoms containing the dermonecrotic agent sphingomyelinase D, which is otherwise found only in a few pathogenic bacteria.[12] Recent research has indicated the venom is composed largely of sulfated nucleosides, though these compounds are relatively new discoveries, so little is known about them.[13] The venom of several species is capable of producing necrotic lesions that are slow to heal and may require skin grafts. Rarely, the venom is carried by the bloodstream, causing red blood cell destruction.

The venom is identical in male and female spiders, but females can have almost twice the concentration of toxins. For unknown reasons, the toxicity of the venom to mammalian species varies; recluse bites may cause necrosis in humans, rabbits, and guinea pigs, but not in mice or rats.[14]

The Chilean recluse (L. laeta) supposedly has a more potent venom, which results in systemic involvement more often. All Loxosceles species that have been tested have venoms similar to that of the brown recluse, and all should be avoided. In general, though, they are not aggressive and commonly occupy human dwellings without causing problems.[15]

Many types of skin wounds are mistaken for or assumed to be the result of a recluse spider bite. Several diseases can mimic the lesions of the bite, including Lyme disease, various fungal and bacterial infections, and the first sore of syphilis.[16] It is important to associate the spider directly with the bite to avoid improper treatment, and to successfully treat common infections or other conditions if no spider was seen.

Bites most often occur as a defense when the spider is trapped against the skin, in clothing, for example.[8] The total volume of venom is minute (only 2 micrograms injected out of 4 microliters in the venom glands).[17]

The bite of a recluse spider can generally be categorized into one of the following groups:[8]

  • Unremarkable – self-healing minute damage
  • Mild reaction – self-healing damage with itchiness, redness, patterns of aggressive behavior and a mild lesion.
  • Dermonecrotic – the uncommon, "classic" recluse bite, producing a necrotic skin lesion. About 66% of necrotic bite lesions heal with no complications.[18] In extreme cases, the lesion may be up to 40 millimeters wide, last for several months, and heal with a permanent scar.[8]
  • Systemic or viscerocutaneous – an extremely rare, systemic reaction to envenomation of the bloodstream. It is observed more often in children.[8]

Most bites are unremarkable or mild.[19][20][21]


As of September 2022 it contains 143 species, found in Central America, the Caribbean, Oceania, Asia, Africa, North America, Europe, and South America:[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Gloor, Daniel; Nentwig, Wolfgang; Blick, Theo; Kropf, Christian (2019). "Gen. Loxosceles Heineken & Lowe, 1832". World Spider Catalog Version 20.0. Natural History Museum Bern. doi:10.24436/2. Retrieved 2019-08-26.
  2. ^ Brignoli, P. M. (1978). "Spinnen aus Brasilien, II. Vier neue Ochyroceratidae aus Amazonas nebst Bemerkungen über andere Amerikanische Arten (Arachnida: Araneae)". Studies on Neotropical Fauna and Environment. 13: 18. doi:10.1080/01650527809360529.
  3. ^ Gertsch, W. J.; Ennik, F. (1983). "The spider genus Loxosceles in North America, Central America, and the West Indies (Araneae, Loxoscelidae)". Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History. 175: 277.
  4. ^ Lowe, R. T. (1832). "Descriptions of two species of Araneidae, natives of Madeira". The Zoological Journal. 5: 320–323.
  5. ^ Binkovitz, Leah. "Why We Should All Celebrate Save a Spider Day". Smithsonian. Retrieved 2017-07-17.
  6. ^ Vetter, Rick. "Myth of the Brown Recluse: Fact, Fear, and Loathing". Retrieved October 26, 2022.
  7. ^ Sandidge, J. (2003). "Arachnology: Scavenging by brown recluse spiders". Nature. 426 (30): 30. Bibcode:2003Natur.426...30S. doi:10.1038/426030a. PMID 14603305. S2CID 4394140.
  8. ^ a b c d e Vetter, R.S. (2008). "Spiders of the genus Loxosceles: A review of biological, medical, and psychological aspects regarding envenomations" (PDF). Journal of Arachnology. 36 (3): 150–163. doi:10.1636/RSt08-06.1. S2CID 7746032.
  9. ^ Hite, J. M. (1966). The biology of the brown recluse spider. Kansas State University.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  10. ^ "Genus Loxosceles - Brown Spiders". bugguide.net. Retrieved 2022-09-05.
  11. ^ Chaim, Olga Meiri; Trevisan-Silva, Dilza; Chaves-Moreira, Daniele; Wille, Ana Carolina M.; Ferrer, Valéria Pereira; Matsubara, Fernando Hitomi; Mangili, Oldemir Carlos; da Silveira, Rafael Bertoni; Gremski, Luiza Helena; Gremski, Waldemiro; Senff-Ribeiro, Andrea; Veiga, Silvio Sanches (2011-03-22). "Brown Spider (Loxosceles genus) venom toxins: Tools for biological purposes". Toxins. 3 (3): 309–344. doi:10.3390/toxins3030309. ISSN 2072-6651. PMC 3202818. PMID 22069711.
  12. ^ Binford, G.J.; et al. (2005). "Sphingomyelinase D from venoms of Loxosceles spiders: evolutionary insights from cDNA sequences and gene structure" (PDF). Toxicon. 45 (5): 547–560. doi:10.1016/j.toxicon.2004.11.011. PMID 15777950.
  13. ^ Schroeder, F.C.; et al. (2008). "NMR-spectroscopic screening of spider venom reveals sulfated nucleosides as major components for the brown recluse and related species". PNAS. 105 (38): 14283–14287. Bibcode:2008PNAS..10514283S. doi:10.1073/pnas.0806840105. PMC 2567178. PMID 18794518.
  14. ^ Swanson, D.L.; Vetter, R.S. (2006). "Loxoscelism" (PDF). Clinics in Dermatology. 24 (3): 213–221. doi:10.1016/j.clindermatol.2005.11.006. PMID 16714202. Retrieved 12 April 2011.
  15. ^ Vetter, R.; Barger, D. (2002). "An infestation of 2,055 brown recluse spiders (Araneae: Sicariidae) and no envenomations in a Kansas home: implications for bite diagnoses in nonendemic areas". J Med Entomol. 39 (6): 948–951. doi:10.1603/0022-2585-39.6.948. PMID 12495200.
  16. ^ Vetter, R.; Bush, S. (2002). "The diagnosis of brown recluse spider bite is overused for dermonecrotic wounds of uncertain etiology". Annals of Emergency Medicine. 39 (5): 544–546. doi:10.1067/mem.2002.123594. PMID 11973562.
  17. ^ Barceloux, Donald G. (2008-11-12). Medical Toxicology of Natural Substances: Foods, fungi, medicinal herbs, plants, and venomous animals. John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 978-0-471-72761-3.
  18. ^ Pauli, I.; et al. (2006). "The efficacy of antivenom in loxoscelism treatment". Toxicon. 48 (2): 123–137. doi:10.1016/j.toxicon.2006.05.005. PMID 16808942.
  19. ^ Wright, S.W.; et al. (1997). "Clinical presentation and outcome of brown recluse spider bite". Annals of Emergency Medicine. 30 (1): 28–32. doi:10.1016/S0196-0644(97)70106-9. PMID 9209221.
  20. ^ Anderson, P.C. (1998). "Missouri brown recluse spider: A review and update". Missouri Medicine. 95 (7): 318–22. PMID 9666677.
  21. ^ Cacy, J.; Mold, J.W. (1999). "The clinical characteristics of brown recluse spider bites treated by family physicians: An OKPRN study". Journal of Family Practice. 48 (7): 536–542. PMID 10428252.
  22. ^ a b Alireza Zamani, Omid Mirshamsi, Yuri M Marusik. 2021. ‘Burning Violin’: The Medically Important Spider Genus Loxosceles (Araneae: Sicariidae) in Iran, Turkmenistan, and Afghanistan, With Two New Species. Journal of Medical Entomology, tjaa257, https://doi.org/10.1093/jme/tjaa257, Published: 10 December 2020.

External links[edit]