Can You Identify Spiders By Their Markings?

We often hear about researchers discovering new spider species, but how do researchers know if the spider they found is unknown to science or not? Many people assume that spider experts discern spiders, and identify new ones by focusing solely on the color and markings that are present on the bodies of spiders. However, the job of identifying spiders is far more complicated a process than just looking at them.

Actually, spiders are categorized by the structure of their bodies. Spiders are also classified as belonging to particular families by the arrangement of their eyes, and their number of claws. Entomologists also have to take into account the location of particular hairs as well as the spines of spiders, and the location of a spider’s spinnerets. And many other features that are not visible to the naked eye. Within families, species are categorized by the location of their sex organs, and this definitely cannot be seen with the naked eye. So it takes a bit of work to properly identify a spider. Unfortunately, spider identification is not as easy as simply checking for a spiders colors and markings.

The problem with using color as an identifier is that animals of different species are often coated with the same colors. You would not want to identify the make and model of a car solely by the color, of course. Using markings as identifiers is also quite misleading. For example, most spiders possess a violin shape somewhere on their bodies. However, most people assume that the violin shaped marking is special to black widows, and if you find a spider with a violin marking then most people assume that the spider must be a black widow. In reality, the violin shape is unique to spiders in general. These markings also do not indicate that spiders possessing them will be dangerous to humans.

Have you ever used a color or a marking as a way to identify a spider only to later find out that you misidentified the spider type?