Wishbone Spiders

Family Nemesiidae

Identification

Wishbone Spiders range from small to large, but most are medium-sized, with two small finger-like spinnerets seen at the end of the body.

The spiders are often mistaken for funnelwebs, because they too are black. Unlike funnelwebs, Wishbone spiders have either a golden or silvery look caused by fine hairs on the head.

Males have long thin legs and most species have a long spine or two at the middle of the tibia (a thick joint) on the first leg as well as having a thin tibia of the pedipalp; both of these parts are very important during mating. The spines lock the fangs of the female safely away during mating.

These spiders cannot climb smooth vertical surfaces.

Diversity & distribution

Australia has a very diverse fauna of these spiders and the highest diversity is probably in Western Australia when the spiders have had tens of millions of years to adapt to the very dry landscape.

As with the Idiopidae (Trapdoor spiders), more species and genera of nemesiid occur here than in any other country. Often 3 to 4 species may occur together in one place.

The more common genera in Queensland's South-east are the Mottled Eastern Wishbone (Namea) in the rainforest, and the Black Wishbone (Aname, pronounced A-na-me) in drier parts of Queensland. The state also boasts the biggest Wishbone spider in the world in the Bearded Wishbone (Xamiatus magnificus) whose body is about 58 mm long.

They occur in all habitats and are found throughout Australia, including Tasmania, but are rare in the far north of Queensland. The family occurs also in all other continents, except Antarctica.

Burrow

The spiders build shallow burrows up to 30-40cm deep in the ground and are more common on flat ground. The burrow’s entrance is open. The burrow of these spiders begins in a Y with one arm slightly concealed below the soil and acts as an emergency escape route when predators attack down the main tube; the other entrance is lightly covered with silk but has no door. The burrow direction is often inclined and not straight down as in most trapdoor spiders.

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