Brown Recluse

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Can anyone guess what this is? … It’s the cephalothorax of a brown recluse spider, aka the violin spider (Loxosceles reclusa). Although many people will throw around the brown recluse or black widow name to harmless wolf spiders and orb weavers, it was really cool to find a sticky trap a few days ago that was actually full of these beautiful spiders— more than 15 total. I’ve encountered Sicarrid spiders before, but never a brown recluse up close, and I’d always wanted to see their characteristic violin-shaped pattern. Of all the individuals in the trap, this spider was one of the best preserved and had the most pronounced dark brown concave slopes down to the eyes (the most violin-like pattern). The legs of brown recluses are long and wiry, but cephalothorax is comparatively small, in this adult just about 4 mm. Brown recluses and other venomous spiders often unfairly get a bad wrap, but they are extremely shy and “reclusive,” avoiding light at all costs and running away in panic when disturbed. Even huge wandering spiders (Phoneutria sp.) and goliath birdeater tarantulas (Theraphosa sp.) that I’ve been lucky to find in the tropics, spiders often framed as “aggressive”, have always fled for refuge and only initiate dramatic displays when cornered or agitated. For this photo I snuck in a black cloth underneath the spider and got as low as possible to light it up from both sides. Some of the light reflected back upward through the empty carapace, giving it a golden and almost wooden appearance.

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Juvenile recluse, body length ~0.5cm. Photographed after capture [5]
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Take a look at these incredible scanning electron microscope images of the brown recluse produced by Eastfield College here.

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