Sunday 19 May
Australian jewel spider (Austracantha minax)
- The Australian jewel spider is sometimes known in Australia as the Christmas spider, as it is generally found in high numbers at this time of year.
- As in other orb-weaving spiders, the Australian jewel spider has eight identical eyes which are arranged in two rows on its head.
What’s the World’s Favourite Species?Find out here.
Australian jewel spider fact file
- Find out more
- Print factsheet
Australian jewel spider description
The Australian jewel spider (Austracantha minax) belongs to the distinctive orb-weaver family, and is beautifully ornamented with spines and circular impressions on the abdomen (3). As in all spiders the body is divided into two parts, the cephalothorax and the abdomen, and on each side of the mouth are venom-injecting fangs and leg-like pedipalps (4).
Spiders of the Austracantha genus have brightly coloured abdomens, usually red, yellow or white, the patterns of which deter predators such as birds. As in other members of its genus, female Australian jewel spiders have a hard body (5), with yellow and white patterning and a series of black spines. However, the melanic female morph is often completely black (6). Male orb-weaver spiders, including the Australian jewel spider, are smaller with a more cylindrical abdomen (5), and have a colourful yellow, white, brown and black body with smaller spines compared to the female. Both sexes have six spines that extend from the end of the abdomen (6).
- Also known as
- Christmas spider, spiny spider. Top
ClimateWatch - Australian jewel spider:
Australian Wildlife Conservancy:
Australian Conservation Foundation:
- In arthropods (crustaceans, insects and arachnids) the abdomen is the hind region of the body, which is usually segmented to a degree (but not visibly in most spiders).
- Feeding on flesh.
- The fused head and thorax (the part of the body located near the head).
- A category used in taxonomy, which is below ‘family’ and above ‘species’. A genus tends to contain species that have characteristics in common. The genus forms the first part of a ‘binomial’ Latin species name; the second part is the specific name.
- The development of dark-coloured pigment in the skin or appendages.
- One of two or more distinct types of a given species, often distinct colour forms, which occur in the same population at the same time (that is, are not geographical or seasonal variations).
- Interaction in which one organism derives its food from, and lives in or on, another living organism (the host) at the host's expense.
- In arachnids (a group which includes spiders and scorpions), a pair of appendages which are modified for many uses, such as killing and manipulating prey, mating, defence and sensory perception.
- A population usually restricted to a geographical area that differs from other populations of the same species, but not to the extent of being classified as a separate species.
Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS) (November, 2012)
- Lloyd, N. and Elgar, M. (1997) Costs and beneﬁts of facultative aggregating behaviour in the orb-spinning spider Gasteracantha minax Thorell (Araneae: Araneidae). Australian Journal of Ecology. 22: 256-261.
- Barrion, A. and Litsinger, J. (1995) Riceland Spiders of South and Southeast Asia. CAB International, Wallingford.
- Burnie, D. (2001) Animal. Dorling Kindersley, London.
- Hogue, C. (1993) Latin American Insects and Entomology. University of California Press, Berkeley.
ClimateWatch - Christmas or Jewel Spider (November, 2012)
- Walter, A. and Elgar, M. (2012) The evolution of novel animal signals: silk decorations as a model system. Biological Reviews. 87: 686-700.
- O’Toole, C. (2002) The New Encyclopedia of Insects and Their Allies. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
- Lindenmayer, D., Crane, M., Michael, D. and Beaton, E. (2005) Woodlands: A Disappearing Landscape. CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood, Australia.
- Elgar, M. and Bathgate, R. (1996) Female receptivity and male mate-guarding in the jewel spider, Gasteracantha minax Thorell (Aranae). Journal of Insect Behaviour, 9: 729-738.
- Birkhead, T. and Møller, A. (1998) Sperm Competition and Sexual Selection. Academic Press, Amsterdam.
- view the contents of, and Material on, the website;
- download and retain copies of the Material on their personal systems in digital form in low resolution for their own personal use;
- teachers, lecturers and students may incorporate the Material in their educational material (including, but not limited to, their lesson plans, presentations, worksheets and projects) in hard copy and digital format for use within a registered educational establishment, provided that the integrity of the Material is maintained and that copyright ownership and authorship is appropriately acknowledged by the End User.
Australian jewel spider biology
The Australian jewel spider builds its orb-shaped web from silk (2), placing silky ‘tufts’ on specific threads as it does so (7). All spiders are predatory and carnivorous, feeding by injecting venom into their insect prey (8). As an opportunistic feeder, the Australian jewel spider has a web which is extremely well adapted to catch flying insects (9).
Female and juvenile Australian jewel spiders spin orb webs solitarily or occasionally in groups, which are known as ‘facultative aggregations’. The potential advantages of facultative aggregations are increased protection from predators, increased prey capture, and greater mate choice for females. Associated costs can include increased parasitism of egg cases. The collective webs of the Australian jewel spider are often made up of up to 30 individual webs that are joined together by shared support threads (2).
When courting a female, the male Australian jewel spider begins by building a ‘mating thread’ from the vegetation to the edge of the female’s web, and strumming it using the first and second pair of legs. The female spider is enticed onto the mating thread by the strumming, and is then tightly embraced by the male, who passes sperm to the female’s external genital structure via a pedipalp (10). The male Australian jewel spider will defend the female following mating, ceasing only when the female is no longer receptive to mating (11).
The variably shaped egg sacs of the Australian jewel spider are reddish-brown, and are usually found attached to a twig, close to the web (6). Australian jewel spiderlings pass through the Australian winter season within the camouflaged egg sacs, emerging in early spring. Male spiders reach maturity by mid-December whereas females mature later, in mid-January (2).Top
Australian jewel spider range
The Australian jewel spider is widespread throughout Australia (2).Top
Australian jewel spider habitat
The Australian jewel spider occurs in both tropical and temperate regions of Australia (2). Like all members of the Austracantha genus, this species generally builds its webs between shrub branches or on buildings (5).Top
Australian jewel spider status
The Australian jewel spider is not yet classified on the IUCN Red List.Top
Australian jewel spider threats
There are no known threats to the Australian jewel spider at present.Top
Australian jewel spider conservation
No conservation actions are known to currently involve the Australian jewel spider.Top
Find out more
Find out more about the Australian jewel spider:
For more information on conservation in Australia:
This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
More »Related species
Play the Team WILD game
MyARKive offers the scrapbook feature to signed-up members, allowing you to organize your favourite ARKive images and videos and share them with friends.
Terms and Conditions of Use of Materials
Copyright in this website and materials contained on this website (Material) belongs to Wildscreen or its licensors.
Visitors to this website (End Users) are entitled to:
End Users shall not copy or otherwise extract, alter or manipulate Material other than as permitted in these Terms and Conditions of Use of Materials.
Additional use of flagged material
Green flagged material
Certain Material on this website (Licence 4 Material) displays a green flag next to the Material and is available for not-for-profit conservation or educational use. This material may be used by End Users, who are individuals or organisations that are in our opinion not-for-profit, for their not-for-profit conservation or not-for-profit educational purposes. Low resolution, watermarked images may be copied from this website by such End Users for such purposes. If you require high resolution or non-watermarked versions of the Material, please contact Wildscreen with details of your proposed use.
Creative commons material
Certain Material on this website has been licensed to Wildscreen under a Creative Commons Licence. These images are clearly marked with the Creative Commons buttons and may be used by End Users only in the way allowed by the specific Creative Commons Licence under which they have been submitted. Please see http://creativecommons.org for details.
Any other use
Please contact the copyright owners directly (copyright and contact details are shown for each media item) to negotiate terms and conditions for any use of Material other than those expressly permitted above. Please note that many of the contributors to ARKive are commercial operators and may request a fee for such use.
Save as permitted above, no person or organisation is permitted to incorporate any copyright material from this website into any other work or publication in any format (this includes but is not limited to: websites, Apps, CDs, DVDs, intranets, extranets, signage, digital communications or on printed materials for external or other distribution). Use of the Material for promotional, administrative or for-profit purposes is not permitted.