Please Explain: Spiders

This week we'll take a look at the creepy crawly world of spiders. Dr. Norm Platnick, curator emeritus in the Museum’s Division of Invertebrate Zoology, and Hazel Davies, Associate Director of Living Exhibits at the American Museum of Natural History, talk about spiders, which are among the most versatile animals on the planet—they're able to inhabit every continent but Antarctica and are able to survive in environments that range from deserts to rainforests to crowded cities. There's an exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History called "Spiders Alive!" It's on view through December 2.

Indian ornamental (Poecilotheria regalis)
Indian ornamental (Poecilotheria regalis)

These ornamental tarantulas (along with the Gooty Sapphire Ornamental and Ivory ornamental) are as colorful as tropical birds, a sharp contrast to the fearsome , dark, and dangerous creatures many imagine.

( © AMNH\R. Mickens )
Gooty Sapphire Ornamental (Poecilotheria metallica)
Gooty Sapphire Ornamental (Poecilotheria metallica)

These ornamental tarantulas (along with the Indian ornamental and Ivory ornamental) are as colorful as tropical birds, a sharp contrast to the fearsome , dark, and dangerous creatures many imagine.

( © AMNH\R. Mickens )
Ivory ornamental (Poecilotheria subfusca)
Ivory ornamental (Poecilotheria subfusca)

These ornamental tarantulas (along with the Indian ornamental and Gooty Sapphire ornamental) are as colorful as tropical birds, a sharp contrast to the fearsome , dark, and dangerous creatures many imagine.

( © AMNH\R. Mickens )
Trapdoor spider (Liphistius dangrek)
Trapdoor spider (Liphistius dangrek)

These spiders spend most of their time in underground burrows, emerging mainly to grab prey. Their rear half is segmented, a trait visible in some of the earliest spider fossils.
   

( © AMNH\R. Mickens )
Wolf spider (Hogna antelucana)
Wolf spider (Hogna antelucana)

This active hunter searches for food on foot, aided by sharp vision and its ability to sense vibrations—like those of the beating wing on an insect or the patter of steps on the soil.
   

( © AMNH\R. Mickens )
Fishing spider (Dolomedes okefinokensis)
Fishing spider (Dolomedes okefinokensis)

Large fishing spiders rest their front legs on the surface of the water on the shoreline trying to sense vibrations from prey. When something gets close, the spider pounces.

( © AMNH\D. Finnin )
Brown recluse (Loxosceles reclusa)
Brown recluse (Loxosceles reclusa) ( © AMNH\R. Mickens )
Western black widow (Latrodectus hesperus)
Western black widow (Latrodectus hesperus)

One of the few species harmful to people in North America, a black widow often features a red hourglass shape on its underside.

( © AMNH\R. Mickens )
Mexican red knee (Brachypelma smithi)
Mexican red knee (Brachypelma smithi)

This stunning tarantula, which lives mainly on the Pacific coast of Mexico, resides in burrows, hurrying out to prey on insects, small frogs, lizards, and mice.

( © AMNH\R. Mickens )
Goliath bird eater (Theraphosa stirmi)
Goliath bird eater (Theraphosa stirmi)

One of the biggest spiders in the world, it preys on snakes, mice, and frogs but, despite the name, rarely birds.

( © AMNH\R. Mickens )
Golden orb-web spider (Nephila pilipes)
Golden orb-web spider (Nephila pilipes)

Found throughout parts of Asia, this large spider has yellow on its abdomen and spins a golden web.

( © AMNH\R. Mickens )
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