Infra order - Haplogynae    Family - Filistatidae   Genus - Kukulcania
Kukulcania sp.

Filistatid, adult male are light biege in color and similar in appearance to a brown recluse spiderFilistatid, Kukulcania sp. - adult female usually dark brown or black

left - Male Kukulcania sp. - beige  in color
right -*Female Kukulcania sp., showing eye cluster and hefty pedipalps

from Marge Moody: 
It is probably Kukulcania geophila, but I can't be sure - females are virtually impossible to identify to species, but the males can be. It's not aggressive - but will bite if aggravated.

Kukulcania sp. (How's that for a name? - the describer named it after the Aztec Feathered Filistata webSerpent) Females are long-lived (up to eight years) being 13 to 19 mm in length, with the males about 9 mm. They build conspicuous snares under stones, but are often found in wood piles, between fence posts, and crevices on the bark of trees. 

The males are this beige color, and are often mistaken for a brown recluse by an untrained eye, while the females are dark brown to coal black and fatter in the abdomen.  This is very confusing to students who can't seem to match them up in their minds.  Also the males don't key-out successfully in spider keys.  I have had students (and even well-known arachnologists) come to me asking what one of these males is, after fruitlessly struggling to key it out.  When I tell them it is a male Kukulcania sp., they blush and say, "Oh, of course". 

underside of female Filistatid, Kukulcania sp.Kukulcania sp. can be recognized by  their peculiar eye arrangement (all 8 bunched up on top of the head, similar to those of tarantulas), the labium being fused to the sternum (no suture visible) as seen in the image of the underside of a female, and their short calimistrum, which consists of only a few hairs near the "knee". You have already observed that the male pedipalps are much thinner than is usually the case with spiders. Also, the male's legs and pedipalps are extra long as seen in the image below. 


adult male Filistatid, Kukulcania sp. showing long pedipalps
This Kukulcania sp. male was captured by a local farmer as the spider crawled from a campfire. The spider was burned in the process. Image above right was sent in from E. Palmer, NRCS Dec2002 
 

These spiders, along with the Hypochilids, are considered to be primitive "true" spiders, as opposed to the Mygalomorph spiders. Incidentally, there are Hypochilids in Tulare Co., for instance around Camp Nelson and in the park. My friend Dr. Shick discovered them years ago. 



Comparison to a Brown Recluse Spider

Filistatid, Kukulcania sp. female on quarterbrown recluse on quarter - image from internet
These two images are the female Kukulcania sp. (left) compared to a brown recluse (right). I include them here to show their similarity in size, body shape and markings. The male Kukulcania sp. is very similar in body color, but the eye clusters are different; plus the brown recluse has six eyes arranged in three pairs in a semicircle on the forepart of the head, while the Kukulcania sp. has all eight clustered together. The violin-shaped marking on the cephlothorax of the brown recluse is predominate, while the Kukulcania sp. is not. Finally, the pedipalps of the brown recluse are of normal length, while the Kukulcania sp. are exceptionally long and slender on the male. (I'll post an image of a  male Kukulcania sp. on a quarter at the first opportunity.)

"Violin Spiders" are not present here in the Central Valley. Necrotic wounds can be caused by poor circulation, insect, spider or other "bug" bites, but it is unlikely that a brown recluse spider would be the culprit here in the Central Valley. It's possible that the male Kukulcania sp. is the spider most folks are seeing, but the bite site would not become necrotic. 

If you believe you've seen or been bitten by a brown recluse, use great caution and capture the beast (see below).  Call your doctor immediately. Contact us at info@kaweakoaks.com or your local UC Cooperative Extension Office as soon as possible for proper identification of the spider. Physicians are not arachnologists and are not trained to properly identify spiders or their bites.

To catch and store a spider:

  • Wearing gloves is a good idea.
  • Use a clear tall glass to completely cover the spider. 
  • Slide a sheet of paper or cardboard under the glass, between the spider and the surface - gently nudging the spider to go on top of the paper. 
  • Carefully turn the glass with the cover on it right-side up. 
  • Tap the cover enough to cause the spider to fall to the bottom of the container and quickly place a heavier flat object over the top. 
  • Place covered container in the refrigerator for at least an hour. 
  • Be sure the spider is no longer active and pour a few inches of isopropyl alcohol over the spider. Recover container and wait a minute or two.
  • Transfer the spider and isopropyl alcohol into a smaller container with a tight fitting lid.
  • Document on a small piece of white paper using a lead pencil the place and date found and your name. Place paper in alcohol.
  • Fill container to the top with isopropyl alcohol. 
  • Seal securely.
  • Store in a dark dry place.

* Rev. Lee Wilson captured this female Kukulcania sp. in November 1993 at Kaweah Oaks Preserve. He caught it in a cardboard trap he placed on a tree. He would bring his treasures to Marjorie for proper ID and placement in the official Kaweah Oaks Preserve Spider Collection of which Marge is the keeper.



Images of the male and female Kukulcania sp. were taken by IR Lindsey, The male was photographed with available light in May 2002 in a local home. The female was photographed using artificial light (which accounts for its lighter appearance) in Jan 2003 at Marjorie Moody's lab in Visalia. She was in remarkably good condition for being preserved in isopropyl alcohol for almost ten years.

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