Curtain Web Spiders
Curtain Web Spider, Cethegus species. The smallest curtain web spider, the midget Masteria toddae.
Curtain Web Spiders range from tiny to large, but most are medium-sized, fast-moving spiders. They have two long finger-like spinnerets at the end the body that signal the presence of these amazing spiders that spin delicate silk that fills spaces from the size of matchbox to an average oven.
The largest of the curtain web spiders is a giant Australothele nambucca (length 30mm) from Nambucca Heads and the smallest is a six-eyed midget, Masteria toddae (length 6mm), from the rainforest litter of the Wet Tropics.
Diversity & distribution
These spiders occur in most habitats from rainforest to grassland throughout Australia but are notably absent from Tasmania. The highest diversity is probably in eastern Queensland where two genera (Namirea and Australothele) divide up the available food in the edges of rainforest with open forest. Namirea tends to be more common in the open forest edges while Australothele reaches higher numbers in moist forest corridors or rainforests.
Most curtain web spiders do not burrow but occupy spaces formed by cracks in earth banks, loose bark, and rotted roots. Hence, when chased they escape easily into the next crack. Some species of the Western curtain web spiders (Cethegus) make burrows, presumably when the ground is soft, in the middle large clumps of grass.
Nothing is known of the bite of these spiders as they seem to be unaggressive.
All but the smallest curtain web spider, Masteria toddae, from the Wet Tropics, eat mostly snails, native and introduced. The snail gets tangled in the filmy silken web whereupon the spider rushes out and bites the exposed "foot" of the snail.
Males of many curtain web spiders have a mating spine on one or both of the first and second legs. A complex and delicate geometry is used by males of Australothele jamiesoni during mating with one pair of legs safely holding the female's fangs and the other pair holding a pair of her legs.
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