Thursday 29 October 2015

Liocranidae: spiny-legged sac spiders

Credit Gerhard Elsner CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

A small family with 13 British species that used to be regarded as part of Clubionidae. They are mainly nocturnal wandering hunters, except the two species of the genus Phrurolithus, which are diurnal ant mimics, and have been also regarded as a different family.

Distinctive egg sacs
Some Agroeca have distinctive stalked egg sacs, like inverted wine glasses (top shot), sometimes covered with soil, which are seen more often than the spider, as they are not guarded. Other species guard their egg sacs.

Spiders have many species of external and internal parasitoids, most of them ichneumonid wasps. Some external parasitoids attach themselves to adult spiders and feed on them, other species search for cocoons and inject their eggs on egg sacs, with the parasitoid larvae developing on the eggs. The characteristic egg sacs of Agroeca makes them easy to identify and collect, so in a study of spider adult and egg sac parasitism in Germany, up to 66% of Agroeca egg sacs were parasitised. Four species of parasitic wasps emerged from egg sacs: two small Gelis wasp species, Bathythrix formosa, and Thaumatogelis audax. Few or no spiderlings emerged from the parasitised egg sacs, indicating how important parasitoids can be as a source of spider mortality.

More information
Finch, O. D. (2005). The parasitoid complex and parasitoid‐induced mortality of spiders (Araneae) in a Central European woodland. Journal of Natural History, 39: 2339-2354.

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