What are spiders?

What are spiders?

In Australia, spiders are a fact of life. However, despite coming into contact with them nearly every day, many of us know very little about them. Often the most basic facts about these animals are mixed up in myths and urban legends which generate fear and confusion. So, what really are spiders?
Spiders are:

  • Invertebrates (animals without a backbone)
  • Animals with an exoskeleton (a skeleton on the outside of their body)
  • Predators (animals that capture other animals to eat)
  • Venomous (not poisonous), though usually this venom has negligible effects on humans. Spiders in the family Uloboridae are the only truly non-venomous spiders and completely lack venom.

Spiders differ from humans and other more familiar animals in a number of ways. Much about their lives, from the way they walk, breathe and eat can seem alien at first. They do not even grow the way we do. Instead, they must shed their exoskeleton a number of times, with each stage of growth known as an instar. The hollow exoskeleton left behind after this process is often mistaken for a dead spider.