Delena cancerides

Delena cancerides, the flat huntsman spider or social huntsman spider, is a large, brown huntsman spider native to Australia. It has been introduced to New Zealand, where it is sometimes known as the Avondale spider[1] as they are commonly found in the suburb of Avondale, Auckland. This was the species used in the beginning of the 2002 movie Spider-Man, a part in Australian movie Napoleon and widely in Arachnophobia, and all films depict them as having a deadly venomous bite, but they are generally considered harmless to humans in real-life.[2] It was first described by Charles Athanase Walckenaer in 1837.[3]

Delena cancerides
ARAN Sparassidae Delena cancerides f.png
Illustration by Des Helmore
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Subphylum: Chelicerata
Class: Arachnida
Order: Araneae
Infraorder: Araneomorphae
Family: Sparassidae
Genus: Delena
D. cancerides
Binomial name
Delena cancerides
  • Delena impressa
  • Thomisus cancerides


Highly unusual among spiders, the flat huntsman spider is a social species, even sharing prey.[1] They are often found under loose bark (their flat shape is an adaption for this) in colonies up to 300, but they are highly aggressive and commonly cannibalistic toward members from other colonies.[4] They hunt their food rather than spin webs for it. They are timid towards humans and bites are infrequent, and when they occur, symptoms are usually very minor.[5]


Avondale Spider Sculpture in Avondale, Auckland

The species is found all over Australia, including Tasmania. It was introduced to New Zealand in 1924. Its range in New Zealand expanded slowly out of Avondale, a suburb of Auckland, hence the alternative New Zealand common name.[1] There is a sculpture in the Avondale shopping centre celebrating the spider.

Appearance and geneticsEdit

Male D. cancerides have a body length of 20–25 millimetres (0.79–0.98 in), while females are larger, with a body length of 25–32 mm (0.98–1.26 in).[6] The body is light brown and covered in dense, fine hairs. The legs are also hairy, and can have a span of over 15 centimetres (5.9 in).[2]

Various populations show major differences in the chromosomes, leading to the recognition of several "chromosomal subspecies", but these hybridize where in contact and there is little genetic divergence.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d Rowell, D. M.; Avilés, L. (1995). "Sociality in a bark-dwelling huntsman spider from Australia, Delena cancerides Walckenaer (Araneae: Sparassidae)" (PDF). Insectes Sociaux. Basel, Switzerland: Birkhäuser. 42 (3): 287–302. doi:10.1007/BF01240423. ISSN 0020-1812. OCLC 260154986. Archived from the original (PDF) on 3 November 2013. Retrieved 20 April 2012.
  2. ^ a b Hall, G.; Hoare, R.J.B.; Crosby, T.K (2001). "Avondale spider, our Hollywood star!". Insects and spiders of New Zealand/Aotearoa. Lincoln, New Zealand: Landcare Research. Archived from the original on 16 April 2012. Retrieved 20 April 2012.
  3. ^ Platnick, Norman I. (10 December 2011). "Fam. Sparassidae". The World Spider Catalog, Version 12.5. New York, NY, USA: American Museum of Natural History. doi:10.5531/db.iz.0001. Retrieved 20 April 2012.
  4. ^ Beavis, A. S.; Rowell, D. M.; Evans, T. (2007). "Cannibalism and kin recognition in Delena cancerides (Araneae: Sparassidae), a social huntsman spider" (PDF). Journal of Zoology. 271 (2): 233–237. doi:10.1111/j.1469-7998.2006.00223.x. ISSN 0952-8369. OCLC 576114955. Archived from the original (PDF) on 16 June 2010. Retrieved 20 April 2012.
  5. ^ Museum Victoria. "Victorian Huntsman Spiders". Museum Victoria Discovery Centre. Melbourne, Australia: Museum Victoria. Archived from the original on 3 April 2012. Retrieved 20 April 2012.
  6. ^ Hawkeswood, Trevor J. (2003). "Delena cancerides Walckenaer, 1837". Spiders of Australia: an Introduction to Their Classification, Biology and Distribution. Pensoft series faunistica. 31. Sofia, Bulgaria: Pensoft. p. 87. ISBN 978-954-642-189-0. ISSN 1312-0174. OCLC 440387624. Retrieved 13 July 2012.

External linksEdit