Close-up of a spider spinning a web


Few creatures provoke extreme reactions quite like spiders. With fearsome reputations and hairy eight-legged bodies, their presence can bring out an almost primeval instinct in even the hardiest wildlife enthusiast. Yet spiders are marvels of nature. The silk they spin from abdominal spinnerets is light, elastic, can be strong enough to rival steel and has many more uses than web-making. All but one of the 40,000 species of spider are carnivorous. Spiders employ a range of techniques, from webs to ambush, to capture prey. Once subdued, their prey is liquidised before being consumed. Spiders range in size from the dinner-plate sized Goliath bird-eater tarantula to species the size of a pinhead.

Did you know?
Spider silk is stronger by weight than steel.

Scientific name: Araneae

Rank: Order

Watch video clips from past programmes (4 clips)

In order to see this content you need to have an up-to-date version of Flash installed and Javascript turned on.

Fossil types

Learn more about the other animals and plants that also form these fossils.

Amber Amber
Amber owes its existence to the defence mechanisms of certain kinds of tree. When the bark is punctured or infected, a sticky resin oozes out to seal the damage and sterilise the area.