Myth: Spider must be one you've heard of

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

Myth: When trying to identify a spider, the only possibilities are species you've already heard of.

Fact: This seems to be the unspoken assumption when people try to make any spider they find fit the descriptions of one of the 2 or 3 widely publicized medically-important species. These people are forgetting that there is much more to the world than the parts familiar to them. Only biologists seem to realize that most land areas of any size are home to, not several spider species, but several hundred — most of which the human population seldom notices.

These days, those working with biodiversity constantly have their noses rubbed in the fact that even species known to biologists are only the "tip of the iceberg" compared to the number likely existing in under-sampled habitats. It would not be too surprising if the 50,000 or so spider species known to arachnologists were only 10% of the total. So don't make any assumptions about your spider specimen; unless you're an arachnologist, you've likely never heard of the species.

This goes, likewise, for spiders you're able to find pictures of. Remember there are thousands of other species that have no photos available. The pictured ones are not the only possibilities!

Spider Myths

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

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