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biodiversity explorer

the web of life in southern Africa

Family: Sparassidae (huntsman spiders)

[= Heteropodidae]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Ecdysozoa > Panarthropoda > Tritocerebra > Arthropoda > Arachnomorpha > Cheliceriformes > Chelicerata > Euchelicerata > Arachnida > Araneae > Araneomorpha

Sparassidae spiders are often confused with the family Theraphosidae (Baboon spiders). The latter are more bulky and very hairy without the typical ventral markings. Sparassids can be confused with spiders of the Ctenidae and Pisauridae families. Sparassids are commonly known as huntsman spiders and large wandering crab spiders. Afrikaans names are grootdwaalkrapspinnekop and jagspinnekop.

Genera native to southern Africa


One species (monotypic), Arandisa deserticola, a Namibian endemic. 10.8mm.



Two species, endemic to dunes of the southern Namib Desert in Namibia.

Carparachne aureoflava (Wheeling spider)

Eusparassus (Rock huntsman spider)

Eusparassus is probably the correct generic name for our rock living Olios species. Presently the only species in the genus is Eusparassus palystiformis, known from southern Africa. Eusparassus is currently being revised by Peter Jager and Majid Moradmand.


Leucorchestris (white lady spiders)

Leucorchestris is a psammophilous genus occurring on sand dunes in arid areas, mainly Namibia but also Angola and the Northern Cape, South Africa.


Microrchestris is a Namibian endemic genus with two small-sized species (10-12mm long).



About 251 species worldwide, of which 27 are recorded from southern Africa. Olios is a group of smaller spiders (Body length is 10-14 mm) within the Sparassidae that in general are either light brown and live under rocks (rupicolus) or green and live on trees (arboreal). The rock-dwelling species produce a flattish sac retreat and egg sac attached to the underside of a rock or stone. These spiders share a similar habitat to the flatties (Selenopidae).


Orchestrella is a Namibian endemic genus with two species (10-18 mm long).


Palystella is a Namibian endemic genus with four species (11-18 mm long).


Palystes (rain spiders, lizard-eating spiders)

These spiders occur mainly on plants where they hunt predominantly insects but they also eat geckos. They are large spiders, often mistaken for baboon spiders, and frequently come indoors where they frighten people. They can bite but it is no more serious than a bee sting. Females of the two common species, Palystes castaneus and Palystes superciliosus, construct an egg case in a bush that is made of dead leaves and twigs drawn together with silk and with a white silk covering (see image to the right).

Panaretella (forest huntsman spiders)

Panaretella Is a genus of small spiders endemic to the forests from Grahamstown to northern Kwazulu-Natal. There are five species of forest huntsman spiders. The retreat is two leaves spun together with silk. Body length 12-18 mm. They vary from a yellowish to a light reddish brown colour with a distinctive black mark on either side anterior of the spinnerets.



Five species, endemic to southern Africa.



Pseudomicrommata is a monotypic genus with  only one species, Pseudomicrommata longipes. The spiders are found in areas with Eragrostis grass where it constructs its large nest.  Pseudomicrommata longipes is easily recognised by the medial dorsal band running the length of its body.


Genera naturalised in southern Africa


Heteropoda venatoria (Brown huntsman spider),  a species with a pantropical distribution, has been introduced to Mozambique and South Africa where it is sometimes reported to take refuse in houses.


  Text by Norman Larsen