Leaf Curling Spider
The Leaf Curling Spider (Phonognatha graeffei) is a species of spider that is found in Australia. It is commonly found in urban areas in the northeastern, eastern and southern states. The spider is commonly found in open woodland and forest habitats as well as urban and suburban gardens.
The adult female is about 0.45 inches while the male is about half the size of the female (about .025 inches). Both male and female are similar in appearance. The legs and body are reddish-brown and there also is a cream colored pattern on the back. Its body is fat and oval-shaped. The legs are long and tapered. The web is about 12 inches across. It is an incomplete circle, being open at the top and fanning downwards. The spider curls up a leaf and places it in the center of the web that acts as a retreat. The spider only leaves the shelter to repair or rebuild the nest or to retrieve prey that has fallen into it. The web is usually constructed at night.
This species forms pairs that live together in opposite ends of the same leaf. The female creates a separate curled leaf nursery hung in foliage nearby. This species is unusual among orb-weaving spiders because the male cohabits in the leaf with both mature and immature females. Mating takes place soon after the female’s final molt. Cohabitation may be a form of mate-guarding because resident males challenge rival males that venture onto the web. Males that defend both mature and immature females tend to be more aggressive than males defending single mature females.
Males copulate longer with previously mated females than with virgin females. Females may cannibalize cohabiting males. The egg sac is laid within a dead leaf, bent over and silked back on itself. This leaf is suspended among foliage well away from the web. Juvenile spiders bend small green leaves and eventually graduate to larger dead leaves. The venom of this spider is not considered dangerous to humans, and it is rare for one to bite a human.