left - Male Kukulcania sp. -
right -*Female Kukulcania sp.,
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 Serpent)
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".
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.
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
Comparison to a Brown Recluse Spider
These two images are the female
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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
Carefully turn the glass with the cover on it right-side
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
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
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.
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.