Family Theridiidae
Spiders in the family Theridiidae, commonly known as cobweb spiders or comb-footed spiders, are one of the most diverse groups with over 2,200 species worldwide. They are also one of the most species rich spider families in New Zealand. So far only 41 species from 15 genera have been described, however, there may be up to 200 species in New Zealand. Many species were described over a century ago and are not recognisable based on their original descriptions.

Most of the New Zealand Theridiidae fauna is native (some endemic to genus level), but the majority of species found around human modified environments are introduced species from Australia and other parts of the world.

Theridiidae in New Zealand are found in a wide range of habitats, including foliage, rock piles, the forest floor and in houses. Most species spin an irregular space web known as a cob-web with threads radiating in different directions.

Theridiidae are amongst the commonest hitchhikers travelling between borders with personal luggage and with cargo. They are some of the most commonly intercepted invertebrates according to the New Zealand border inspection database. They account for 27% of all spider interceptions, so are considered of high biosecurity importance.

New Zealand endemic species face a number of conservation issues such as habitat loss, interbreeding with introduced species and possible competition from exotic spiders. Some foreign Theridiidae (as well as the New Zealand endemic katipo spider) are of medical importance because of their neurotoxic venom. It is usually the female that is able to pierce human skin and deliver a significant amount of venom capable of harming humans.

Key to Theridiidae Spiders of Biosecurity Importance to New Zealand
includes introduced and native species commonly associated with the human environment, species that have already been intercepted by Quarantine Inspectors at the border, widely distributed species and species found overseas that are a likely biosecurity threat. We have tried to avoid specialist morphological terms in order to make the key accessible to many users. The key also features:
a) how to use, where there is guidance on which morphological features are important and how to interpret them;
b) spider morphology, which illustrates the main body parts typical of the family as well as those used as diagnostic characters in the key;
c) species check list, which highlights diagnostic features;
d) references, which were used in the construction of the key and that contain further information (includes web page links);
e) acknowledgements, where we express our gratitude to folks whose help was invaluable in the construction of the key.

Suggested citation
Marinov, M., Vink, C., Jones, D., & Kumarasinghe, L. 2014. Key to Theridiidae spiders of biosecurity importance to New Zealand. Ministry for Primary
Industries, Plant Health and Environment Laboratory (PHEL); New Zealand. [date you accessed site] <>




External Links
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Last updated: 09/05/2014
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