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biodiversity explorer

the web of life in southern Africa

Family: Zoropsidae

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

Phanotea and Griswoldia has been removed from the Miturgidae and placed in the family Zoropsidae. These South African endemic spiders are also nocturnal, free ranging, cryptic and terrestrial and resemble the Lycosidae and Ctenizidae, all 3 families belong in the Lycosoidea. Phanotea (13 species) and Griswoldia (formally Machadonia, 12 species) are the most common terrestrial spiders in forested areas, hence the colloquial name, forest-floor spider. Some species live in caves and rock recesses. These spiders can be found running among the rocks and leaf litter at night, filling the ecological niche left vacant by the diurnal lycosids.

Genera indigenous to southern Africa


Griswoldia (formally Machadonia) occurs from the Soutpansberg (Limpopo) to the Cape Peninsula (Western Cape). With Phanotea, it is the most common terrestrial spiders in moist forested areas,. They are also found away from forests in grassland along streams with fern and other cool vegetation providing the required moist conditions. The females have a body length of 5.8-13.3mm. The males show little sexual dimorphism and are slightly smaller with longer legs. Griswoldia can be recognised by the pale medial band on the carapace with darker lateral bands similar to the lycosids. During the day it retreats under rock or logs and will easily desiccate in dry habitats.


Medium to large, 6.5-21mm body length, with 13 endemic species occurring in the Eastern Cape, Western Cape and Kwazulu-Natal where they are found in cave, forest and fynbos habitats. On the Cape Peninsula it has been found that various cave endemics have a wider distribution and occur wherever boulders form cool damp refuges (e.g.; Drymusa capensis and Malaika longipes). Phanotea digitata, found in Table Mountain National Park, and Phanotea ceratogyna, found in Grootvadersbos Nature Reserve, are common forest spiders.


Text and images by Norman Larsen