Main Components of Spider Venoms

Nentwig, Wolfgang; Kuhn-Nentwig, Lucia Gerda (2013). Main Components of Spider Venoms. In: Nentwig, Wolfgang (ed.) Spider Ecophysiology (pp. 191-202). Berlin: Springer 10.1007/978-3-642-33989-9_14

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Venom glands are alreadypresent in theoldes t spider group, the Mesothelae. Theglands lie in the anterior portion of the cheliceral basal segment but are very small, and it is doubtful how much the venom contributes to the predatory success. In mygalomorph spiders, the well-developed venom glands are still in the basal segment of the chelicerae and produce powerful venom that is injected via the cheliceral fangs into a victim. In all other spiders (Araneomorphae), the venom glands have become much larger and reach into the prosoma where they can take up a considerable proportion of this body part. Only a few spiders have reduced their venom glands, either partially or completely (Uloboridae, Holarchaeidae and Symphytognathidae are usually mentioned) or modified them significantly (Scytodidae, see Suter and Stratton 2013). As well as using venom, spiders may also use their chelicerae to overwhelm an item of prey. It is primarily a question of size whether a spider chews up small arthropods without applying venom or if it injects venom first. Very small and/or defenceless arthropods are picked up and crashed with the chelicerae, while larger, dangerous or well-defended items are carefully approached and only attacked with venom injection. Some spiders specialize on prey groups, such as noctuid moths (several genera of bola spiders among Araneidae), web spiders (Mimetidae), ants (Zodarion species in Zodariidae, aphantochiline thomisids, several genera among Theridiidae, Salticidae, Clubionidae and Gnaphosidae) or termites (Ammoxenidae). However, these more or less monophagous species amount only to roughly 2 % of all known spider species, while 98 % are polyphagous. From these considerations, it follows that the majority of spider venoms are not tailored to any given invertebrate or insect group but are rather unspecialized to be effective over a broad spectrum of prey types that spiders naturally encounter.

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 12:01

Last Modified:

06 Dec 2014 21:04

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