Wolf Spider, South Russian Tarantula - Lycosa singoriensis
It is a rare event to actually sight one of these large, exotic-looking spiders of the Lycosidae family which are sometimes called South Russian tarantulas. With a length of up to four centimetres, the Lycosa singoriensis wolf spider is the largest Central European spider.
The Lycosa singoriensis generally has a brightish stripe centred on its grey to black front section, and there are two large and six small eyes on its head. The large eyes help the spider see while hunting, while the smaller ones can likely only take in light.
Range extends from Asia to easternmost parts of Austria. The species migrated to Austria around the turn of the last century, e.g. 1900. There may be populations in the dry grasslands of the Donau-Auen National Park.
Endangerment and Conservation Status
Lycosa singoriensis is classified as critically endangered (CR) on the current IUCN Red List.
Despite its size, the Lycosa singoriensis is anything but easy to spot. As a specialist for sand and dry grass, this wolf spider hides by day in burrows it has dug for itself. When diurnally active, this wary spider will flee to its burrow immediately upon the slightest trembling of the ground. One sign of the spider's presence in an ecosystem is the slough (moult) sometimes found in front of an underground burrow. The species requires sandy soil with sparse vegetation and aridity to thrive. It prefers the far banks of salty pools. If vegetation has become too dense and high due to lack of grazing, the spider no longer has the living conditions it requires and will move on.
The Lycosa singoriensis would be able to pierce human skin using its strong claws, which may be connected to its venom glands, yet the amount and concentration of its venom is normally not sufficient to cause serious problems for humans. At night the Lycosa singoriensis leaves its burrow in order to hunt. It waits in opportune places for its prey, most often insects and beetles, to wander by. It pounces from a distance of only centimetres and overpowers its prey with its venomous bite. Then the victim is sucked dry until only the shell or skin remains.
After successful mating, the female is responsible for carrying the eggs which are fastened to the end of her abdomen in an egg sac. After the eggs have hatched the female will continue to carry the juveniles around and defend them.
The name "tarantula" originally derives from the town of Taranto in Apulia, Italy. According to legend, the bite of the tarantula unleashes in humans a wild and uncontrollable urge to dance; the folk dance tarantella is named thus due to the dervish-like dance which is said to result from the tarantula's bite.