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Closeup of Elegant Crab Spider. Photographed early morning. Nature photography by Bob Orsillo
Crab spiders or Thomisidae family of the Araneae order. They are called crab spiders because they resemble crabs, with two front pairs of legs angled outward and bodies that are flattened and often angular. Also, like crabs, Thomisidae can move sideways or backward.
Crab spiders do not build webs to trap prey, but are hunters and ambushers. Some species sit on or among flowers, bark, fruit or leaves where they grab visiting insects. Individuals of some species, such as Misumena vatia, are able to change color to match the flower on which they are sitting. Other species, with their flattened bodies, hunt in the crevices of tree trunks or under loose bark. Members of the genus Xysticus hunt in the leaf litter on the ground. In each case, crab spiders use their powerful front legs to grab and hold onto prey while paralyzing it with a venomous bite.
The spider family Aphantochilidae was incorporated into the Thomisidae in the late 1980s. Aphantochilus species mimic Cephalotes ants, on which they prey.
The spiders of Thomisidae are not known to be harmful to humans. However, spiders of an unrelated genus, Sicarius, which are sometimes referred to as "crab spiders", are close cousins to the recluse spiders, and are highly venomous.
September 29th, 2010
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