Pre­his­toric preda­tors

My­ga­lo­morphs are an an­cient group of spi­ders that have re­mained al­most un­changed for mil­lions of years.

Australian Geographic - - CONTENTS - STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY NICK VOLPE

UN­LIKE MOD­ERN SPI­DERS, which have pin­cer-like bit­ing ap­pa­ra­tus, my­ga­lo­morphs have dag­ger-like fangs that they thrust down­wards in a ‘pick-axe’ mo­tion.

These spi­ders are pow­er­ful preda­tors that can take down prey larger than them­selves. Fe­males tend to be more solid-bod­ied and spend most of their lives en­sconced in their bur­rows. Males, which leave their bur­rows at ma­tu­rity to wan­der in search of mates, have a slighter build and are of­ten more brightly coloured.

Aus­tralia has many hun­dreds of dif­fer­ent my­ga­lo­morphs in numer­ous fam­i­lies with new species be­ing dis­cov­ered ev­ery year. They can be found liv­ing in al­most ev­ery en­vi­ron­ment, from our harsh deserts to wet rain­forests and, to the hor­ror of arachno­phobes, sub­ur­ban back­yards!

These tend to be large, hairy spi­ders.

Our big­gest taran­tu­las, for ex­am­ple, can at­tain a mas­sive leg-span of 240mm. But, at the other end of the size scale, our small­est cur­tain-web spi­ders have a to­tal length of just 6mm.

Here we show a rep­re­sen­ta­tive species from each of the ma­jor my­ga­lo­morph fam­i­lies found in Aus­tralia.

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