Goblin Spiders

Dr Barbara Baehr is a PBI (Planetary Biodiversity Inventory) Research Fellow working at Queensland Museum. For the last 5 years she has been working for the PBI Goblin Spider project and this will continue for the next two years.

Dr Barbara Baehr

Goblin spiders are very small, funny-looking spiders that look a bit like goblins, hence the name. There are lots of species and some have hooks, long leg spines, or scutae (shields or armour over the body). These spiders can be found in the canopy, under bark, or in leaf litter.  

Ishnothyreus sp. nov. male dorsal view

Prethopalpus sp.

 New species are being discovered and there is a blind species (a member of the new genus Prethopalpus) that was discovered in Western Australia in boreholes about 60m deep.

Like most spiders, Goblin Spiders immobilise their prey with venom. They secrete digestive enzymes into their prey to start the digestion process. Then they suck up the liquefied food. Common prey of Goblin Spiders includes small insects such as springtails.

Some Goblin Spiders have leaf-like setae (bristles) on a concavity on the underside of their abdomens. After identifying and naming new species, research is then carried out to determine the functions of some of these strange structures.  

Cavisternum sp. male showing sternum

 To help with this huge task of naming new species (taxonomy) people from Queenslandhave donated money to the project and in so doing they have had species of spiders named after them. For Example, Roger Kitching founded the IBISCA project and there is a new species of Goblin spider named Opopaea rogerkitchingi.

SEM (Scanning Electron Microscope) images below show the elongated fang of the male Goblin Spiders from the genus Cavisternum.

Scanning Electrom Microscope image of fangs of male

A member from the Oonopidae family is shown below. These small spiders (0.5-4.0mm) possess only 6 eyes and generally have an armour of abdominal scutae (plates). Barbara is currently revising the Australasian Opopaea genus which will include about 70 species.   

Opopaea male, front view

To learn more about the amazing world of spiders visit the Spider section of our QM website, or view a video on Funnel-web Spiders. To learn more about Barbara’s research visit Dr Barbara Baehr’s Biography page.

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About Adriana Bauer

I am a Senior Project Officer (Biodiversity) in the Strategic Learning section of the Queensland Museum. I have been working here since August 2008 but before then, I was teaching in secondary schools in Brisbane. My subject areas include Biology, Junior Science, and Junior and Senior Mathematics. Since working at the museum, I have been involved in developing online learning resources, QM Loans kits, updating our Inquiry Centre Fact Sheets, delivering professional development for teachers, and writing educational resources that support the new Australian Science Curriculum. I have a passion and interest in biodiversity and did my academic studies at the University of Queensland where I obtained a B.Sc, B.A, and Dip. Ed.
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