The Immune System of Spiders

Kuhn-Nentwig, Lucia Gerda; Nentwig, Wolfgang (2013). The Immune System of Spiders. In: Nentwig, Wolfgang (ed.) Spider Ecophysiology (pp. 81-91). Berlin: Springer 10.1007/978-3-642-33989-9_7

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Spiders, as all other arthropods, have an open circulatory system, and their body fluid, the hemolymph, freely moves between lymphatic vessels and the body cavities (see Wirkner and Huckstorf 2013). The hemolymph can be considered as a multifunctional organ, central for locomotion (Kropf 2013), respiration (Burmester 2013) and nutrition, and it amounts to approximately 20 % of a spider’s body weight. Any injury includes not only immediate hemolymph loss but also pathogen attacks and subsequent infections. Therefore spiders have to react to injuries in a combined manner to stop fluid loss and to defend against microbial invaders. This is achieved by an innate immune system which involves several host defence systems such as hemolymph coagulation and the production of a variety of defensive substances (Fukuzawa et al.2008). In spiders, the immune system is localised in hemocytes which are derived from the myocardium cells of the heart wall where they are produced as prohemocytes and from where they are released as different cell types into the hemolymph (Seitz 1972). They contribute to the defence against pathogens by phagocytosis, nodulation and encapsulation of invaders. The humoral response includes mechanisms which induce melanin production to destroy pathogens, a clotting cascade to stop hemolymph loss and the constitutive production of several types of antimicrobial peptides, which are stored in hemocyte granules and released into the hemolymph (Fukuzawa et al.2008) (Fig.7.1). The immune system of spiders is an innate immune system. It is hemolymph-based and characterised by a broad but not very particular specificity. Its advantage is a fast response within minutes to a few hours. This is in contrast to the adaptive immune system of vertebrates which can react to very specific pathogens, thus resulting in much more specific responses. Moreover, it creates an immunological memory during the lifetime of the species. The disadvantage is that it needs more time to react with antibody production, usually many hours to a few days, and needs to be built up during early ontogenesis.

Item Type:

Book Section (Book Chapter)


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

UniBE Contributor:

Kuhn-Nentwig, Lucia Gerda and Nentwig, Wolfgang


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








Alexander Strauss

Date Deposited:

04 Aug 2014 10:40

Last Modified:

05 Feb 2015 00:46

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