Wednesday 6 June 2012

The Panther Spider

Upon removing a pot from a wall this morning, I exposed a beautiful adult female Mouse Spider,  Scotophaeus blackwalli, her abdomen full and glistening. Although initially flighty, she eventually settled on the white bowl and allowed me to take her portrait. In his classic book 'The World of Spiders', packed full of interesting observations on the behaviour and natural history of British Spiders, W.S. Bristowe described these nocturnal spiders and their relatives as the 'panthers or pumas of the invertebrate world'. However, a few lines later he pushed aside their hunting habits and instead gave this spider a much less impressive common name:
If an English name were needed for our only domestic species, which is found rarely away from man's buildings in hollow trees, it would be appropriate to call her the Mouse Spider on account of her glossy grey abdomen. But she can be a very fierce mouse. She reaches 11 mm. and has short brown legs and a rather narrow head.
He goes on to describe its ability to subsist without water for months and its prowling behaviour 'at night on walls and ceilings in search of prey, retiring behind pictures or onto crevices in walls during the hours of daylight.' He must have kept this spider in captivity and observed it carefully and he goes on to describe its encounters with prey and its short mating behaviour. He describes to have observed two cases of mating in July. And it is at this time of year that adult specimens can commonly be found.

More information
Bristowe, W.S. 1958 The World of Spiders. Collins New Naturalist Series, London. 304 pp.


Neil said...

Nice find and photo

snippa said...

Fantastic photograph and interesting information - as always.

Africa Gomez said...

Thank you Neil and snippa. I love these spiders, they look a bit like tiny tarantulas, despite not being big they look powerful and, apparently, they have a nasty bite!