About the Whip Spider

Katherine Veness's blog | Created 3 years ago

In 2013, the Western Australian Museum released a recording of a whip spider (below) collected in the Kimberley region of Western Australia. The footage shows the arachnid motioning slowly with its thin whip-like legs, which might remind you of a flag signaller going through a semaphore routine or a (very slow) whip cracker.

But what exactly is a Whip Spider?

To start with, they aren’t true spiders. Whip spiders belong to the order Amblypygi, whereas true spiders belong to the order Araneae. Whip spiders have more in common with whip scorpions and schizomids than their namesake, as they share features such as an antennae-like first set of legs.

Whip spiders have large, shiny pedipalps, which they use for catching prey.  They also have four pairs of legs, the first pair of which are thin and elongated, and give this arachnid its common name. The mouthparts, or chelicerae, are two-segmented, and its abdomen is egg-shaped and appears flattened.

Whip spiders prey on a wide variety of arthropods. Some species occasionally take prey in flight or from below the water. 

Whip spiders are widespread throughout most tropical and sub-tropical regions. The discovery of the whip spider in this footage came as a surprise, however, as they aren’t a common species in the Kimberley.

Whip spider trivia

A CGI representation of a whip spider was used in the film Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, starring as the unfortunate creature on which Mad-Eye Moody demonstrates the unforgivable curses (no animals were harmed!).