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Volume 15, 1882
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Art. XII.—On some newly-discovered New Zealand Arachnids.

[Read before the Hawke's Bay Philosophical Institute, 11th September, 1882.]

In bringing before you this evening the few curious and fine Arachnids, forming the subject of my present paper (of which I also exhibit specimens), I would first, by way of introduction, call your attention to their systematic position in the great Animal Kingdom. I am the more especially inclined to do this for two reasons:—1. Because of the youthful part of my audience; and, 2. Because these animals (with many of their congeners and allies) are popularly, though erroneously, included under the one general term of Insects. These animals, however, do not belong to the class Insecta, but to the allied one of Arachnida, which is also a large and varied one, and includes all Spiders, Scorpions, Mites, etc., etc.

My subject and specimen No. 1, will, I think, be found to belong to the family of Phalangidœ, or to the next one of Pseudoscorpionidœ,—or, what is not unlikely a link connecting both. As far as I know, hitherto only one

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species of this last-mentioned family has been detected in New Zealand; and that is a small species of the genus Chelifer, (one closely allied to C. cancroides) which, I think, I first detected in the neighbourhood of the Bay of Islands, in 1838–1840, and of which early mention was published in 1843.* This animal, however, I now bring before you, making the second found in New Zealand of that or some closely-allied family, is a very different animal from that former one; and although naturally allied to that genus can scarcely belong to it as it is now constituted; and is a very puzzling creature. Indeed I do not know exactly to what known genus to refer it, hence I have provisionally given it the rather peculiar name of Phalangium (Phrynus) cheliferoides; as, under the old Linnæan classification, this animal would be placed in his genus Phalangium; but I have good reasons for doubting its being placed there now; the more modern genus Phrynus (of all the genera taken out of the Linnæan genus Phalangium known to me) seems to be pretty near to it, but of this I am not quite certain from lack of the necessary books of reference.

Phalangium (Phrynus) cheliferoides.

Body 3½ lines long, 2 lines broad, broad-oval, smooth, firm; posterior extremity roundly-obtuse, terminating in a produced point; anterior extremity truncate; cephalothorax and abdomen in one, no perceptible separation; shield, lateral and posterior margins thickened; abdomen cylindrical, elevated, thick, slightly marked above and below with five transverse segmental markings; colour (general) when fresh, black; after immersion in spirits, dark brown-black.

Eyes, 2, globular, small, prominent on an elevated cylindrical ridge on the top of caput, but nearer to posterior margin of shield, one on each side of the elevation, which is divided in the centre and muricated; clypeus broad, studded with minute elevated black points.

Falces very long, first joint 5 lines and second joint 6 lines long, stout, cylindrical, largely chelate, thickly muricated, swollen, clavate or subpyriform for 2 lines towards top; claws (chelæ) two-thirds of a line long, arcuated, with a single large tooth in each, superior one overlapping, tips black; maxillary palpi 5-jointed 5 lines long, finely hairy throughout, mostly so at the upper part; colour pure white, red-pink at the bases and blackish at tips, which are blunt and each bearing a single minute black hook; mouth underneath, nearly central, prominent; maxillœ semi-circular; lower lip notched and both slightly hairy.

Legs, 8, very long, 2½ inches and upwards, cylindrical, and finely filiform. each with a single minute curved black hook at the tip, second pair of legs

[Footnote] * In “Tasmanian Journal of Natural Science,” vol. ii., p. 300.

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the longest, measuring nearly 3 inches. Colour (after keeping in spirits) brown, variegated with many small white spots and rings which under a lens present a subtesselated appearance, those white rings are swollen and appear as if jointed, each bearing two (or more) minute black spines; coxœ large, prominent, slightly hairy, hairs patent; trochanter very short, smooth; femur 7 lines long, beset with short spinous hairs; tibia (genual joint) 1 line long, smooth; metatarsus of the second pair 6 lines long, (in the other three pairs this joint is only 3 lines long,) with a few short and scattered hairs, and four equidistant white rings; tarsus 1 inch and 8 lines long, hairy particularly towards tip, very finely annulated in the upper part and very flexible: this last joint of all the legs is exceedingly fine and flexible and curved at tip; when the animal is taken out of spirits for examination it is very difficult to keep this long last joint steady.

Sternum very small; anus produced.

Hab. In dark forests, among long mosses and Hepaticæ on the trunks of living trees 6–8 feet from the ground, “70-mile Bush,” between Norsewood and Danneverke, 1879–1881.

This curious and strange animal has greatly puzzled me, not knowing of any genus, or even family, to which it might rightly be referred. In its peculiar and prominent characters it seems to partake of more than one family of Arachnida, as they are at present constituted. In its body and long filiform legs it agrees with Phalangium, in its long chelate falces with Pseudoscorpionidœ (Cheliferidœ); it evidently has also some relationship to Thelyphonidœ through Phrynus, particularly in its extra long and filiform (antennæ-like) second pair of legs; while its large and bent maxillary palpi bear close analogy, if not affinity, with those organs in our endemic genera (of Orthoptera) Deinacrida and Hemideina. There may, however, be some known genus to which it can be hereafter rightly referred; at present I have done my best here (without modern scientific works on Arachnida), and by naming it as I have done I have placed it near to its proper place in the Natural System.

Believing this Arachnid to be very scarce, and having but one perfect specimen, I have not cared to break it up so as to examine it more narrowly, especially as to its buccal apparatus. I have only seen four specimens in the woods, throughout three years, although from my first seeing one in 1879 (which I failed to capture), I have sought most diligently for specimens. In the following year I accidentally, and most unexpectedly, saw another in the same forest, and though I tried long and arduously to secure it without smashing, I failed to do so; it spread out its long flexible legs so prodigiously, that in the end it escaped among the thick vegetation. Its

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movements, however, were not fast; but it wore such a strange appearance —black, with its pure white palpi, and its uplifted threatening chelæ, that I, bearing in mind our small blackish katipo spider, was on my guard; perhaps too much so.*

In that same year, however, I found, in the evening, among my thick long mosses in my vasculum, one of these Arachnids, or rather the anterior half of one without its abdomen, etc.; it was still living and could crawl slowly. Subsequently, in 1881, I secured another and a perfect specimen from among the thick-growing and long Plagiochila subsimilis (and then not on the surface, but within!) How the creature can possibly manage to crawl through such fine and dense vegetation is a marvel to me. It generally keeps its long falces upright, or inclining towards its back, and bent at a sharp angle, and sometimes moves them forward alternately in progression, much like a hand or a foot: and sometimes, like its congener Chelifer (supra), holding them up with distended claws in a threatening attitude.

My second lot belong to the family Araneidœ (or True Spiders), and contain three fine species; two of them are, I believe, quite new, and one has been already described in the Trans. N.Z. Inst., but is still little known.

You will, no doubt, remember that at our ordinary meeting held here in August, 1881, I had the pleasure of bringing before you specimens of a fine spider I had then recently received from one of our country members; at that time I promised to lay before you a paper containing its description, habits, etc., and this I now do.

From that kind country member, Mr. J. Drummond, who resides at Te Ongaonga, I learn (in answer to several letters) that in July, 1881 (our wet season and mid-winter), while engaged in making a drain in some low-lying swampy land, he noticed several large spiders, which were dug up from about twenty inches to two feet under the surface, and though amongst black swampy soft soil, they always came out of the mud quite dry and clean, with their skins looking like velvet.

[Footnote] * Having here alluded to the bite of the katipo spider, I should also say (lest I should be misunderstood) that I do not support those monstrous stories respecting the effects of its bite, which some have related; (some of those accounts are, I think, to be found recorded in the early volumes of the Trans. N.Z. Inst.). In past years I had several cases of persons bitten by the katipo brought to my notice, including Europeans and Maoris: some of them I had also to attend to medically, and so watched the cases; and while the effects of the bite are generally pretty severe at first, they are transient, being completely over by the second day, leaving no after effects; and never, I believe, caused death, or anything like it.

[Footnote] † See Proceedings, Trans. N.Z. Inst., vol. xiv., p. 566.

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The spot seems to have been a remarkably soft one, of a loose spongy muddy nature; for early in the following month (August) he thus writes:— “I found these four spiders, now sent, from one to two feet under ground; but what was black swampy soil last month, is now mud since the heavy rains. This mud seems to boil up through cracks in the upper stratum of clay. I put a bar of iron down sixteen feet, and found soft mud only, and no bottom.”

On the 19th of August he again writes: “In further carrying out your wishes I have again been a-spider-hunting, and I give you the result. I found a ronnd hole ¾-in. in diameter in the elevated side of the drain. In carefully cutting into it I first came upon thousands of ants! I never before found so many in one spot. This hole ran nearly horizontally, and was about 6 in. in depth; it was lined throughout with spiders' web, and its bottom was also covered with web; two spiders of small size were in the bottom of this hole. I also found two wings of an insect with the spiders at the bottom; these I also send you with them. The clay, etc., on the outside of the entrance to the hole was excavated from within and thrown down. Another similar hole had a blue-gum leaf fastened down with web across its entrance, but there was nothing in it. Another hole, which ran 8–9 inches vertically, had a big spider reposing in the bottom. I could not find any more large spiders, but there are plenty of small ones left. None feigned death on being captured; on the contrary they always ran nimbly away, endeavouring to hide themselves by getting under anything. They run very quickly with their legs spread out all round. One of the largest (of those I first sent you) when dug out fell from off the shovel into the drain, and immediately dived under the liquid mud! I plunged the shovel in after it and brought up a shovel-full of mud, and the spider was among it, looking as clean and dry as if it had never been in it, which quite surprised me. Their colours, I find, are much darker after being immersed in the spirits; the yellow stripes are not near so bright as when they were living, and their velvety appearance wholly gone.”

Since receiving the foregoing communications, I have had at various times down to the present, several letters from Mr. Drummond, but nothing additional of consequence has been discovered. I much wished to obtain a specimen of a male; for, although I have received several specimens, both large and small, they are all females; and I regret to say that I have not yet succeeded. This, however, is no uncommon occurrence among the Araneidœ, as it is well known that the males are everywhere fewer in number than the females and consequently much more rarely met with; besides, I believe it is pretty well ascertained, that among the Territelariœ, or trap-door spiders, the male is never found within those holes or tubes. And as

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there are at least two distinct divisions or families of trap-door spiders inhabiting Europe, (the one with a bung-like or cork-door lid fitted into its nest, and the other with a wafer or flapdoor lid to fall down over its entrance; some of these last-mentioned having also a second door of thick web fitted on a kind of hinge within the tube), I greatly wished to know, if possible, under which division this one should be classed; but down to the present have learned nothing more respecting the lid, or door, though Mr. Drummond has zealously sought after it. Moreover, there is yet another closely-related family (or division) of spiders, living in holes and cracks, which, while they also spin a web within, do not make any door to their nests or holes: these are called Tubitelarieœ.

The Order of Araneidœ (or True Spiders) is an immense one; it is largely represented here in New Zealand, and is daily increasing in books from everywhere. I have noticed in vol. xxx. of the “Linnæan Transactions” (published in 1874), that the Rev. O. P. Cambridge has given a corrected and enlarged list of the number of British spiders alone, containing 78 genera and 457 species, while the number of the foreign ones is legion! This extensive Order has been from time to time subdivided into families and genera, which have been often altered, insomuch that it requires an expert—and a highly-skilled one too—to pronounce certainly on any species. Therefore I have concluded not to attempt to fix on any known genus of Araneidœ as being that to which this spider (and another I shall also this evening bring before you) properly belongs, for I have not that special knowledge requisite, neither have we here the modern scientific works on spiders which would assist us in our search. This, however, will not prove to be a very formidable hindrance to our shortly knowing something more definite about these two spiders, for I intend sending specimens by an early mail to England, to the Rev. O. P. Cambridge (one of our greatest modern British araneologists) for his judgment and determination. This gentleman has already described some of our large New Zealand spiders in the Trans. N.Z. Inst.,* and among them is also a trap-door spider from Otago, sent him thence by Professor Hutton and Mr. Gillies; but that species is a different one from our two contained in this paper, although it may be not distantly and naturally allied to them. From the disposition of the eyes of these two spiders, I doubt their belonging to the same genus as the trap-door spider from Otago described by him.

No. 1.—–, spider from Te Ongaonga.

Adult female, length 10 lines, exclusive of flaces.

Cephalothorax broad-oval, truncate at each end, posterior extremity much the broader, finely and velvety hairy; upper part of shield smooth;

[Footnote] * Vol. vi., p. 187, and vol. x., p. 281.

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thoracic portion rather flat; head slightly rounded above, with a few erect black bristles about the eyes; very hairy on lateral edges, and a slight line of hairs running down the indentation and increasing at the base; colour, rich umber-brown, with three longitudinal lines of light yellow-brown, one narrow down the back central, and two broader down the sides, all with irregularly crenated margins; lateral edges of shield below the line of a lighter brown.

Eyes, 8, unequal in size, in two rows (their position slightly resembling those of the genus Philodromus), 4 anterior in a line in front, and 4 posterior in a curved line above, with the convexity towards face, and the largest at the four corners.

Legs, strong, hairy; colour brownish, but lighter than the shield, with scattered black bristles above running somewhat in lines, none below; metatarsus and tarsus clothed with blackish hairs; relative length of legs 4 1 2 3, the fourth pair 13 lines long; sternum small, almost circular or deltoid-cordate, a little broader in front than behind, convex, very hairy, colour dark brown.

Palpi stout and strong, 4 ½ lines long, very hairy, increasing in hairiness forward; radial and digital joints densely clothed with black hairs; falces strong, prominent, black, and shining, with black and brown hairs about their bases; maxillœ large, hairy.

Abdomen about equal length with cephalothorax, oval, slightly convex above, and a little higher than cephalothorax; colour brown, same as legs but darker, and still darker below; very finely and densely hairy; three longitudinal yellow-brown stripes (in continuation of those on cephalothorax) running half-way towards posterior end and vanishing, and two lines of distant sunken black dots, 3–4 in a line, running downwards.

I think the old females change their colour, losing their light yellowbrown stripes, and becoming nearly wholly brown.

No. 2,—–, spider from Napier.

This species I have found here in my garden on several occasions, and always in a similar situation—viz., in a hole in the earth below the surface. In plunging a large flower-pot (of hyacinths, &c., after flowering) into the earth up to its rim, and leaving it there till the following early spring, I am pretty sure of finding one of these spiders in a large hole or burrow underground by the side of the pot. The hole is oval, and as large as a pigeon's egg, about 3–4 inches under the surface, and dark, without any apparent outlet (though such may exist), and devoid of a vestige of web within and without. When taken out and exposed to the light this spider feigns death, and quietly allows itself to be taken up and removed. I have only found them solitary, and (as in the former case) have not yet met with a male.

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Adult female, length 11½ lines, exclusive of falces.

Cephalothorax broad oval, truncate at both ends, posterior extremity much broader; 5½ lines long, and 4 lines wide at the widest part; thoracic portion raised, convex, bare of hairs on top; head slightly rounded above; clypeus very truncate; largely hairy around eyes and face; three slight thoracic segmental markings running down each side; indentation sunk, smooth; colour rich dark red-brown, with light-brown and greyish coarse hairs, and a narrow light-coloured continuous stripe along the lateral and posterior borders of shield, with the hairs immediately above it of a shade of darker brown.

Eyes, 8, unequal in size, in two rows, (their position, etc., resembling those of the genus Tegennaria,) 4 anterior, smaller and equal in size, 4 posterior, the two central ones large, but the two corner ones largest, and more prominent and laterally inclined.

Palpi moderately stout, 4 lines long, hairy, with a single large black spine at end of the radial joint; falces prominent, black, shining, and (with maxillœ) bearing long shaggy hairs.

Legs medium stout, colour rich dark red-brown, hairy with black hairs, increasing in hairiness towards the tips, and having a few scattered black spines, and two black hooks at the tips; coxœ very large, smooth and shining in the gibbous parts; femora stout and but slightly hairy; two longitudinal rows of strong black spines on tibia and metatarsus below; the joints white, with small black spines; relative length of legs, 4 1 2 3; the fourth pair 14 lines long; sternum red-brown, medium size, broad oval, almost flat, slightly hairy, hairs adpressed.

Abdomen, 6 lines long, 4 lines wide, broad oval, hairy, convex above and higher than cephalothorax, the ground of a brownish colour, mottled or irrorated throughout, and very finely dotted with light yellow-brown; two lines of light-brown circular spots equidistant, and five spots in each line, running down towards posterior end; spiracles large central, close under base of sternum; spinners produced, long.

As I found it impossible to describe wholly and minutely the falces, palpi, and buccal organs of these spiders, without breaking up my specimens and gumming their parts severally down, I forbore to do so, preferring to leave those parts partly undescribed for the time, and so send my perfect and best specimens to England.

No. 3. Macrothele huttonii, Cambridge.

This large spider is also from my garden, and is one of those I mentioned as having been described by the Rev. O. P. Cambridge; and I merely bring it before you to exhibit it, and to say a few words respecting its habits and economy; which, I believe, were unknown to its describer.*

[Footnote] * For the full description, and a drawing with dissections of this spider, see Trans. N.Z. Inst., vol vi., p. 200.

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This fine spider is by no means uncommon with me; its habitat is often inside an unused and empty inverted earthen flower-pot; if such has been standing in the garden untouched for a year or so, one is pretty certain to be found within it, quietly and snugly ensconced in the midst, or beneath a very large web, spun thickly across the pot in all directions, yet leaving a large and somewhat tortuous passage for the spider; the web itself is of a bluish cast. In the pot are also sure to be found the elytra of pretty large Coleopterous insects, which, no doubt, enter through the hole in the inverted bottom of the flower-pot. Another fine resort for these spiders is under the large wooden cover of my concrete underground water-tank; this cover is scarcely ever removed oftener than once in two years, and there, beneath it, they are to be found, sometimes three or five, but always dwelling apart, in darkness, and concealed in their large extensive bluish webs. This spider also feigns death on its being captured. I have only hitherto detected one male, which, as the Rev. O. P. Cambridge states (and as is generally the case), is smaller than the female.

In one of those specimens of this spider now exhibited (all being females) you will notice that it had formerly lost a leg, which is being supplied by a new (and, at present, a smaller) one. Some of the female specimens of this spider that I have taken, are considerably larger than those described by the Rev. O. P. Cambridge; in all other respects, however, they agree with his scientific description.


A few days after the reading of my paper on some New Zealand Arachnids (the same having been noticed in one of our local papers), I received by train a small tin box from a friend in the country, 60 miles distant south, “containing,” as he said, “two fine living specimens of my big spider” (Macrothele huttonii). On opening the box there was but one of them alive, the other not only being dead but completely dismembered!—every leg torn off at the coxal joint, and the cephalothorax separated from the abdomen. These two spiders were both females, and were of a very large size; the living one was the largest specimen I had ever seen, and was wholly uninjured and very lively. There was nothing put into the little tin box with them, neither moss nor paper. That they would fight and kill, cooped up as they were in such a narrow space, was certain, but that the victor should proceed to such extreme lengths as to tear the conquered one into pieces was new, at least to me. And as this incident seemed an addition to our knowledge of the animal's habits and economy, I have added it.