Spider Venoms Potentially Lethal to Humans

Nentwig, Wolfgang; Kuhn-Nentwig, Lucia Gerda (2013). Spider Venoms Potentially Lethal to Humans. In: Nentwig, Wolfgang (ed.) Spider Ecophysiology (pp. 253-264). Berlin: Springer 10.1007/978-3-642-33989-9_19

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Spiders have one pair of venom glands, and only a few families have reduced them completely (Uloboridae, Holarchaeidae) or modified them to another function (Symphytognathidae or Scytodidae, see Suter and Stratton 2013). All other 42,000 known spider species (99%) utilize their venom to inject it into prey items, which subsequently become paralysed or are killed. Spider venom is a complex mixture of hundreds of components, many of them interacting with cell membranes or receptors located mainly in the nervous or muscular system (Herzig and King 2013). Spider venom, as it is today, has a 300-million-yearlong history of evolution and adaptation and can be considered as an optimized tool to subdue prey. In Mesothelae, the oldest spider group with less than 100 species, the venom glands lie in the anterior part of the cheliceral basal segment. They are very small and do not support the predation process very effectively. In Mygalomorphae, the venom glands are well developed and fill the basal cheliceral segment more or less completely. Many of these 3,000 species are medium- to large-/very large-sized spiders, and they have created the image of being dangerous beasts, attacking and killing a variety of animals, including humans. Although this picture is completely wrong, it is persistent and contributes considerably to human arachnophobia. The third group of spiders, Araneomorphae or “modern spiders”, comprises 93% of all spider species. The venom glands are enlarged and extend to the prosoma; the openings of the venom ducts are moved from the convex to the concave side of the cheliceral fangs and enlarged as well. These changes save the chelicerae from
the necessity of being large, and hence, on the average, araneomorph spiders are
much smaller than mygalomorphs. Nevertheless, they possess relatively large venom
glands, situated mainly in the prosoma, and may also have rather potent venom.

Item Type:

Book Section (Book Chapter)


08 Faculty of Science > Department of Biology > Institute of Ecology and Evolution (IEE)
08 Faculty of Science > Department of Biology > Institute of Ecology and Evolution (IEE) > Community Ecology

UniBE Contributor:

Nentwig, Wolfgang and Kuhn-Nentwig, Lucia Gerda


500 Science > 570 Life sciences; biology
500 Science > 590 Animals (Zoology)
500 Science > 580 Plants (Botany)








Alexander Strauss

Date Deposited:

04 Aug 2014 11:58

Last Modified:

16 Feb 2015 00:41

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