Spider skeleton I

On Saturday morning I was coming back from a walk with the dog, when I noticed something interesting near our driveway. Of course, I just had to go inside and get a camera! As I stood there leaning over the flowerbed, apparently taking a photograph of a brick wall, a car stopped close by. I could hear the occupants talking amongst each other wondering what I was up to. When I finished my photo session, they were still there, and asked me what was so interesting. I don’t think they were impressed with my answer . . . So what was so interesting? This:

I don’t think this was a dead spider (the dead ones I see are normally all curled up), but the exoskeleton of a spider that has gone through a moulting process.

To explain it a little more scientifically, here is an excerpt from “Filmer’s Spiders – An Identification Guide for Southern Africa” by Martin R. Filmer, revised by Norman Larsen.

Each time the exuviae (old exoskeleton) has been shed, the spider grows rapidly until the new, pliable exoskeleton hardens and effectively halts any further growth. The spider is then obliged to wait for the next ecdysis* before growing any bigger. The smaller the spider, the fewer the ecdyses required to attain adulthood. Medium-sized spiders ecdyse approximately seven times, and the larger species up to 10 times. Generally, spiders seek a quiet place to ecdyse, for they are at the most vulnerable during and immediately after moulting.

(*Ecdysis: Another name for moulting, during which the old exoskeleton is shed and replaced by a new one.)

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Categories: Nature/Environment


I live on the Southern coast of South Africa, and write about the things that interest, amuse or inspire me. You can find me at https://notesfromafrica.wordpress.com and http://southerncape.wordpress.com (my photoblog)


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21 Comments on “Spider skeleton I”

  1. February 13, 2011 at 10:06 am #

    That looks like an actual spider – isn’t an exoskeleton usaully a little more transparent? Maybe it got stuck in its own web and gravity prevented the legs from curling in.

    Oh, wouldn’t it be cool if you can get a shot of the moulting process?! The spider would be so busy that you could get really close 😉

    • February 13, 2011 at 10:31 am #

      I also thought that it might be a dead spider, but I looked at some photographs online and found this one:

      Spider exoskeleton

      The limbs on “my” spider skeleton are also all contorted.

      I guess I’d have to send the photo to a spider expert for a “proper” opinion.

  2. February 13, 2011 at 11:40 am #

    I think this is really interesting. I would have taken lots of photos too. It looks like a realy complicated suit to crawl out of.

    • February 13, 2011 at 3:32 pm #

      LOL Yeah, like a really tight pair of pants X 4 !!! Wonder if it’s painful?

  3. February 13, 2011 at 1:53 pm #

    Oooh! Well spotted, Lisa!

    And honestly, what is *wrong* with those people? I would’ve thought they’d be *fascinated* to see a spider’s exoskeleton! And to find out what *ecdysis* is. I bet not *everyone* knows that! So thank you!

    I just have one smaaaall lingering concern… um… where’s the rest of the spider, Lisa? 😉

    • February 13, 2011 at 3:35 pm #

      Thanks! I know . . . these people were so totally unappreciative. Unlike my readers, who are of course happy for any opportunity to be exposed to something new.

      The rest of spider . . . Mmmh. I had given that some thought. There’s obviously a bigger version of it out in the garden somewhere.

      • February 13, 2011 at 10:33 pm #

        Um… :-}

        Let’s hope they don’t moult too often, because that would imply that they grow really quickly.

  4. February 13, 2011 at 3:55 pm #

    Ha, ha! “Exposed” to something new! This is truly fascinating. This tells you how ill-informed I am–but I didn’t even know spiders “molted.” Truly fascinating, Lisa–I love this!

    • February 13, 2011 at 4:43 pm #

      Thanks, Kathy! Just think of all the “fascinating” facts you can share at dinner parties! 😉 On second thought, perhaps that’s not such a good idea . . . don’t want people to start avoiding you.

  5. February 13, 2011 at 4:47 pm #

    oh my!! look at what you found!!! great capture!!

    • February 13, 2011 at 8:30 pm #

      Thanks! Not sure that everyone is going to find it fascinating though. 🙂

  6. February 13, 2011 at 10:56 pm #

    I would not be so thrilled to see that. LOL. However, I will not deny that when I saw the most beautiful spider web with its huge occupant inside I did take a picture. Morbid curiosity, I suppose.

    • February 14, 2011 at 6:07 am #

      As long as I know a spider isn’t poisonous, I’m okay. Or of course if it’s a really big one and it jumps at me! LOL

      Have you still got the spider photograph?

  7. February 14, 2011 at 1:13 am #

    Wow, I had no idea that spiders molted. Learned something new today.

    • February 14, 2011 at 5:59 am #

      I knew that they moulted, but had never seen a skeleton hanging like that. Or maybe I did and just thought it was a dead spider.

  8. February 14, 2011 at 8:21 am #

    Great find! I love the way you captured this.


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