Myth: "Eight legs" always means "spider"

Illustration: Henry C. McCook
Illustration: Henry C. McCook

Myth: You can always tell a spider because it has eight legs.

Fact: Not exactly. Scorpions, harvestmen, ticks, and in fact all arachnids—not just spiders—have four pairs of legs (see illustrations). Insects have three pairs. Also, notice that I said "four pairs" instead of "eight." The number of leg pairs (one pair per leg-bearing segment) is more significant than individual legs, which can be lost.

Spider Myths

"Everything that 'everybody knows' about spiders is wrong!" —Rod Crawford sets the record straight with Spider Myths.

Examples of 6 of the 11 orders of arachnids. Only one is a spider.

illustration of a spider, Missulena occatoria (Australia)

A spider, Missulena occatoria (Australia).

illustration of a whipscorpion, Abaliella dicranotarsalis

A whipscorpion, Abaliella dicranotarsalis.

Illustrations of a scorpion, Charmus indicus (India)

A scorpion, Charmus indicus (India).

illustration of A pseudoscorpion, Chelifer tuberculatus (Algeria)

A pseudoscorpion, Chelifer tuberculatus (Algeria).

illustration of A harvestman, Phalangium opilio (worldwide)

A harvestman, Phalangium opilio (worldwide).

Illustration of a solpugid, Ammotrechella cubae (Cuba).

A solpugid, Ammotrechella cubae (Cuba).

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close up of a spider

Spider Myth Resources

Explore even more! Additional spider resources and more myths (poor spiders can't catch a break!).

Photo: Cathy Morris/Burke Museum
Photo: Cathy Morris/Burke Museum