They are easily mistaken for the funnel-web spider, mouse and even trapdoor spider. They are much more widespread than funnel-web spiders but not nearly as venomous. Would you be able to recognise a wishbone spider? (Image Credit: Cael David-Gallery, Aname comosa)
Common name: Wishbone spider
Scientific name(s): Family Anamidae (part of the Family Nemesiidae until very recently).
Description: Wishbone spiders are easily confused for other mygalomorphs, including the funnel webs, mouse spiders, and various trapdoor spiders. Many wishbone spider species are black, but some may be grey, brown, reddish brown or golden-brown, or golden or silvery thanks to a fuzz of fine hairs. The large jaws are elongated and usually darker and smoother than the body, and the eight eyes are placed in four tightly-spaced pairs at the middle front of the cephalothorax. Wishbone spider legs are generally long and slender, and the two spinnerets usually upward-pointing. Females are generally larger – up to 6cm in body length in some species – and stockier than the males. Males have a spur on the first pair of legs, used to hold the female’s jaws during mating.
Geographic distribution: Wishbone spiders are found over most of Australia. One common genus in dry open country is Aname, although other genera in the family are restricted to particular habitats such as rain forests. Western Australia probably has many un-described species.
Habitat: Wishbone spiders live in Y-shaped, silk-lined burrows, from which they derive their common name. The burrows may be up to 40 cm deep, and one arm is used as an escape tunnel if the spider is attacked, or as a refuge during flooding. They spend most of their life waiting near the lidless entrance of the longer arm for passing prey. The entrance may have silk across it, especially in dry hot weather.
Females will not leave the burrow unless disturbed, flooded out, or accidentally unearthed, but in the breeding season – usually spring and summer, after rain – males will leave their home to find a mate. Males are the most frequently encountered wishbone spiders.
Pest status: Wishbone spiders of either sex will rear up on their hind legs and may lunge if threatened. The long fangs may cause a deep and painful wound, but are not considered a serious medical threat. However, since they can easily be mistaken for funnel-web spiders in the eastern states, caution should be taken and medical advice sought in the case of any actual bite.
Treatment: No treatment is required – males will not linger around houses, and the females will not leave their burrows unless forced. If encountered in a garden, both can be gently encouraged to move on with a broom.
Daniel Heald, technician and entomologist