Dolomedes tenebrosus (Dark Fishing Spider)

About Dolomedes tenebrosus

Taxonomic Hierarchy

→ Kingdom: Animalia
→ Phylum: Arthropoda
→ Class: Arachnida
→ Order: Araneae
→ Family: Pisauridae
→ Genus: Dolomedes
→ Species: Dolomedes tenebrosus

Common Name (Official / AAS)

Fishing Spider

Other Common Names

Dark Fishing Spider, Nursery Web Spider, Raft Spider

Author

Author of species name: Nicholas Marcellus Hentz. First year published: 1844, as Dolomedes tenebrosus.

Pronunciation

doh-loh-MEE-deez ten-eh-BRO-sus

Meaning

Dolomedes apparently means “wily” or “contriving” in Greek (Cameron 2005); the species name tenebrosus translates to “dark, gloomy” in Latin.

Notable Previous Names

Dolomedes idoneus
Dolomedes vernalis

Identifying Traits of Dolomedes tenebrosus

Size

Body length (excluding legs) of adult female ranges from 15-26 mm; adult males range from 7-13 mm.

Female Primary Colors

Male Primary Colors

Eye diagram of Dolomedes tenebrosus

Eyes

Total of eight eyes. When viewed from the front, two horizontal rows of four, each row moderately recurved. Posterior eyes somewhat larger than the anterior eyes. See eye diagram.

Legs

Legs quite long, very long in males in proportion to body size. Long, black spines are visible when closely examined. Mature individuals are very large, “sprawling” spiders. Legs typically banded in shades of black and brown. The tarsi (tips of legs) have 3 claws.

Body

Cephalothorax and abdomen of about equal size. Robust spiders. Abdomen rounded in the front, widest in the middle, and tapered towards the rear. Abdomen gray or brown with a series of black ‘W’-shaped markings on posterior half and unique pattern on the front half that somewhat resembles the face of an ant.

Range of Dolomedes tenebrosus

Dolomedes tenebrosus can be found in the following states, provinces and territories across the United States and Canada. Our current understanding of each spider's distribution is drawn from numerous scientific publications and online spider submissions, in order to be as accurate as possible. It is important to remember that spiders do not adhere to the territorial lines decided on by humans, therefore these ranges are subject to change.

United States

Canada

Additional Information

Habitat

This is a spider of deciduous forests. Despite the moniker of “fishing spider,” this particular species is frequently found far from water. Look for the spiders waiting motionless in ambush on tree trunks, fenceposts, walls, and other vertical surfaces, mostly at night. The spiders dash into tree holes, under bark, and into crevices when startled.

Web

This is a powerful hunting spider that does not spin a prey-catching snare. Females will, however, construct a tangled “nursery web” among foliage where they will suspend their egg sac and guard the emerging spiderlings.

Season

These spiders mature in late spring, and reproduce in mid-summer. Immature spiders overwinter in protected places, such as under rocks or loose bark.

Food

Prey is composed of large insects and even small vertebrates that the spider can overpower. This includes small fish (e.g. minnows) and various aquatic insects when this spider hangs out near bodies of water.

Lifecycle

Courtship for Dolomedes tenebrosus lasts about 1.5 hours and culminates with the act of copulation, which only takes about 4.5 minutes (Sierwald & Coddington 1988). Recent research (Schwartz et al. 2013) investigating male monogamy in spiders revealed that, for this species, mating always results in the death of the male! The haematodochal bulb on the male’s pedipalp even remains inflated after copulation and he dies, with no apparent involvement from the female, who then eats him (Schwartz et al. 2013). The egg sac subsequently created by the female is a grayish sphere, approximately 15mm in diameter, held in the jaws of the female as she wanders. One sac was reported as containing 1393 eggs (Kaston 1948). Eventually the spider suspends her egg sac in a tangled “nursery web” amid foliage well off the ground. There she stands guard over the package and the spiderlings that later emerge from it. The spiderlings will remain in the nursery web until their next molt, at which time they disperse.

Remarks

The fishing spiders (family Pisauridae) are frequently mistaken for wolf spiders (family Lycosidae), but the arrangement of the eyes is graphically different between the two families; and fishing spiders are more likely to be seen in the vertical plane (whereas wolf spiders, while they can climb, are mostly seen in the horizontal plane on the ground, stones, and logs).

Pictures of Dolomedes tenebrosus (Fishing Spider)

General

Female Spiders

Male Spiders

Filtering options are grayed out when we do not have pictures for the given perspective. If you are a spider photographer, you can submit pictures of spiders to help fill any voids in our ever expanding library.
  • Dolomedes tenebrosus
  • Sex: FemaleFemale
  • Attributes: Dorsal
  • City/Region: Loretto
  • State: Pennsylvania
  • Country: United States
  • Dolomedes tenebrosus
  • Sex: FemaleFemale
  • Maturity: Adult
  • Attributes: Dorsal
  • City/Region: Howell
  • State: Michigan
  • Country: United States
  • Dolomedes tenebrosus
  • Sex: FemaleFemale
  • Maturity: Adult
  • Attributes: Dorsal
  • City/Region: West Chesterfield
  • State: New Hampshire
  • Country: United States
  • Dolomedes tenebrosus
  • Sex: FemaleFemale
  • Maturity: Immature
  • Attributes: Dorsal
  • City/Region: Bedford
  • State: Virginia
  • Country: United States
  • Dolomedes tenebrosus
  • Sex: FemaleFemale
  • Maturity: Adult
  • Attributes: Dorsal
  • City/Region: Ontario
  • Country: Canada
  • Dolomedes tenebrosus
  • Sex: FemaleFemale
  • Maturity: Adult
  • Attributes: Dorsal
  • City/Region: Framingham
  • State: Massachusetts
  • Country: United States
  • Dolomedes tenebrosus
  • Sex: FemaleFemale
  • Maturity: Adult
  • Attributes: Dorsal
  • City/Region: Blairstown at Van Campens Glen
  • State: New Jersey
  • Country: United States
  • Dolomedes tenebrosus
  • Sex: FemaleFemale
  • Maturity: Adult
  • Attributes: Dorsal
  • City/Region: Lynx
  • State: Ohio
  • Country: United States
  • Dolomedes tenebrosus
  • Sex: FemaleFemale
  • Maturity: Adult
  • Attributes: Eyes
  • City/Region: Wolfeboro
  • State: New Hampshire
  • Country: United States
  • Dolomedes tenebrosus
  • Sex: FemaleFemale
  • Maturity: Adult
  • Attributes: Lateral
  • City/Region: Westborough
  • State: Massachusetts
  • Country: United States
  • Dolomedes tenebrosus
  • Sex: FemaleFemale
  • Maturity: Adult
  • Attributes: Lateral
  • City/Region: St. Peters
  • State: Missouri
  • Country: United States
  • Dolomedes tenebrosus
  • Sex: FemaleFemale
  • Maturity: Adult
  • Attributes: Dorsal, Gravid
  • City/Region: Kansas, Delaware County
  • State: Oklahoma
  • Country: United States
  • Dolomedes tenebrosus
  • Sex: FemaleFemale
  • Maturity: Adult
  • Attributes: Dorsal
  • City/Region: Johnson County
  • State: Kansas
  • Country: United States
  • Dolomedes tenebrosus
  • Sex: FemaleFemale
  • Maturity: Adult
  • Attributes: Egg Sacs, Eyes
  • City/Region: Port Louisa National Wildlife Refuge, Wapello
  • State: Iowa
  • Country: United States
  • Dolomedes tenebrosus
  • Maturity: Immature
  • Attributes: Lateral
  • City/Region: High Place Lookout Tower
  • State: Missouri
  • Country: United States
  • Dolomedes tenebrosus
  • Sex: FemaleFemale
  • Maturity: Adult
  • Attributes: Dorsal
  • City/Region: High Point
  • State: North Carolina
  • Country: United States
  • Dolomedes tenebrosus
  • Sex: FemaleFemale
  • Maturity: Adult
  • Attributes: Dorsal
  • City/Region: Cross Lake, Shreveport
  • State: Louisiana
  • Country: United States
  • Dolomedes tenebrosus
  • Sex: FemaleFemale
  • Maturity: Adult
  • Attributes: Dorsal
  • City/Region: Cross Lake, Shreveport
  • State: Louisiana
  • Country: United States
  • Dolomedes tenebrosus
  • Sex: MaleMale
  • Maturity: Adult
  • Attributes: Dorsal
  • City/Region: Raab Corners
  • State: Ohio
  • Country: United States
  • Dolomedes tenebrosus
  • Sex: FemaleFemale
  • Maturity: Adult
  • Attributes: Dorsal
  • State: Delaware
  • Country: United States
  • Dolomedes tenebrosus
  • Sex: FemaleFemale
  • Maturity: Adult
  • Attributes: Dorsal
  • State: Connecticut
  • Country: United States
  • Dolomedes tenebrosus
  • Sex: FemaleFemale
  • Maturity: Adult
  • Attributes: Eyes
  • State: Connecticut
  • Country: United States
  • Dolomedes tenebrosus
  • Sex: FemaleFemale
  • Maturity: Adult
  • Attributes: Dorsal
  • City/Region: Bellefeuille, Quebec
  • Country: Canada
  • Dolomedes tenebrosus
  • Sex: FemaleFemale
  • Maturity: Adult
  • Attributes: Dorsal
  • City/Region: Bellefeuille, Quebec
  • Country: Canada
  • Dolomedes tenebrosus
  • Sex: MaleMale
  • Maturity: Adult
  • Attributes: Dorsal, Eyes
  • State: Connecticut
  • Country: United States
  • Dolomedes tenebrosus
  • Sex: MaleMale
  • Maturity: Adult
  • Attributes: Dorsal
  • State: Connecticut
  • Country: United States
  • Dolomedes tenebrosus
  • Sex: MaleMale
  • Maturity: Adult
  • Attributes: Dorsal
  • City/Region: Rochester, Monroe County
  • State: New York
  • Country: United States
  • Dolomedes tenebrosus
  • Maturity: Immature
  • Attributes: Lateral
  • City/Region: Talcott Mountain
  • State: Connecticut
  • Country: United States
  • Dolomedes tenebrosus
  • Sex: FemaleFemale
  • Attributes: Dorsal
  • State: Wisconsin
  • Country: United States
  • Dolomedes tenebrosus
  • Sex: FemaleFemale
  • Maturity: Adult
  • Attributes: Dorsal
  • State: Ohio
  • Country: United States
  • Dolomedes tenebrosus
  • Sex: FemaleFemale
  • Maturity: Immature
  • Attributes: Dorsal
  • City/Region: Morristown
  • State: New Jersey
  • Country: United States
  • Dolomedes tenebrosus
  • Sex: FemaleFemale
  • Maturity: Adult
  • Attributes: Dorsal
  • City/Region: Hickory
  • State: North Carolina
  • Country: United States
  • Dolomedes tenebrosus
  • Sex: MaleMale
  • Maturity: Adult
  • Attributes: Eyes, Lateral
  • City/Region: Pennypack Park, Philadelphia
  • State: Pennsylvania
  • Country: United States
  • Dolomedes tenebrosus
  • Sex: FemaleFemale
  • Maturity: Adult
  • Attributes: Dorsal, Eyes
  • City/Region: Green Lane
  • State: Pennsylvania
  • Country: United States
  • Dolomedes tenebrosus
  • Sex: FemaleFemale
  • Maturity: Adult
  • Attributes: Dorsal
  • City/Region: Gilford
  • State: New Hampshire
  • Country: United States
  • Dolomedes tenebrosus
  • Sex: FemaleFemale
  • Maturity: Adult
  • Attributes: Dorsal
  • City/Region: Cincinnati
  • State: Ohio
  • Country: United States

References and Further Reading

Various Research Papers

Scientific Diagrams and Keys for Identification

References for the Casual Reader

Species guide last updated: May 5, 2014

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