Nursery-web spider (Pisaura mirabilis)

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Female nursery-web spider
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Nursery-web spider fact file

Nursery-web spider description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumArthropoda
ClassArachnida
OrderAraneae
FamilyPisauridae
GenusPisaura (1)

The nursery-web spider (Pisaura mirabilis) is the only member of the Pisaura genus in Britain (2). The abdomen is slender and tapering and there is a light stripe along the middle of the carapace. The colour is variable, and may be grey, yellowish-orange or dark brown. Although males are generally similar in appearance to females, they tend to be darker, with more noticeable markings (2) and have smaller abdomens (3).

Size
Male length: 10-13 mm (2)
Female length: 12-15 mm (2)
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Nursery-web spider biology

Members of this family of spiders are active hunters with good vision (3). The nursery-web spider hunts amongst low vegetation as well as on the ground. When detecting prey, they characteristically rest on vegetation with the first two pairs of legs together, held out at an angle (3).

During courtship, the male nursery-web spider presents the female with a ‘nuptial gift’ in the form of an insect wrapped in silk (3). Until fairly recently, this gift was thought to protect the male from becoming the female’s next meal. Research has shown, however, that the gift entices the female to mate, and what’s more, the size of the gift is related to how long the female will mate with a male. The larger the gift, the longer copulation will last and so more eggs will be fertilised by more ‘generous’ males bringing larger gifts (4).

Female spiders belonging to this family produce very large egg sacs, which they carry around beneath their body. When the time for the spiderlings to emerge approaches, the female deposits the egg sac on a leaf and spins a protective silk ‘nursery web’ around it. She then opens the egg sac slightly, and stands guard until the spiderlings emerge (3).

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Nursery-web spider range

The nursery-web spider is common and widespread throughout Britain, but is scarce in Scotland (4). It is also found in northern Europe (3).

You can view distribution information for this species at the National Biodiversity Network Gateway.
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Nursery-web spider habitat

The nursery-web spider is found in woodland clearings, grassland and heathland (3) in long grass, shrubs or amongst hedgerows (2).

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Nursery-web spider status

The nursery-web spider is a widespread species is not threatened. It is not listed under any conservation designations (3).

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Nursery-web spider threats

There are not known to be any current threats to the nursery-web spider.

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Nursery-web spider conservation

There are not known to be any specific conservation measures currently in place for this widespread spider.

There may be further information about this species available via the National Biodiversity Network Gateway.
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Find out more

For more on this species see:

  • Roberts, M.J. (1995) Spiders of Britain and northern Europe. Harper Collins Publishers Ltd, London.

For more on British spiders see:

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Authentication

Information authenticated by Dr Peter Merrett of the British Arachnological Society:
http://www.britishspiders.org.uk/index.html

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Glossary

Abdomen
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). In crustacea (e.g. crabs) some of the limbs attach to the abdomen; in insects the limbs are attached to the thorax (the part of the body nearest to the head) and not the abdomen. In vertebrates the abdomen is the part of the body that contains the internal organs (except the heart and lungs).
Carapace
The top shell of a turtle. In arthropods (insects, crabs etc), the fused head and thorax (the part of the body located near the head) also known as ‘cephalothorax’.
Genus
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.
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References

  1. National Biodiversity Network Species Dictionary (September 2003)
    http://www.nhm.ac.uk/nbn/
  2. Roberts, M.J. (1993) The spiders of Great Britain and Ireland Part 1- text. Harley Books, Colchester.
  3. Roberts, M.J. (1995) Spiders of Britain and northern Europe. Harper Collins Publishers Ltd. London.
  4. Merrett, P. (February 2004) Pers. comm.
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Image credit

Female nursery-web spider  
Female nursery-web spider

© Robin Williams

Robin Williams
Kyntons Mead
Heath House
Wedmore
Somerset
BS28 4UQ
United Kingdom

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