Six Eyed Sand Spider is a spider of medium-sized deserts and other sandy places in southern Africa. It is a member of the Araneomorphae spider family, and close relatives of this spider are sometimes found in both Africa and South America. Its closest relatives are Recluse Spiders that are found all over the world.
Origin of the Species
The Six Eyed Sand Spider is also known as the Six Eyed Crab Spider due to its flattened stance and laterite legs. It is believed that the poison from the bite of these spiders is the most dangerous of all spiders. The Six Eyed Sand Spider is a living fossil that predates the drift of Gondwanaland about 100 million years ago and is also found in South America. There are 6 species common in the Western Cape, Namibia, and the Northern Province. They live:
- in sand;
- on the dunes;
- under rocks and rocky ledges;
- near the ant pits.
Six Eyed Sand Spider from the North Cape and Namibia is arguably the deadliest in the world. Fortunately, due to its habitat, it is rare and does not seem to want to bite. Nevertheless, one should not communicate with this spider, since there is no effective treatment against its venom.
Fun Fact: The scientific name for the Six Eyed Sand Spider family is Sicarius, which means “assassin” and “sica” is a curved dagger.
The genus to which the six-eyed sand spider belongs was first created in 1878 by Friedrich Karsch as Hexomma, with the only species Hexomma hahni. By 1879, however, Karsh realized that the name was already being used in 1877 for another species of spider, so he published a replacement name, Hexophthalma.
In 1893, Eugene Simon transferred Hexophthalma hahni to the genus Sicarius, and Hexophthalma fell into disuse until a phylogenetic study in 2017 showed that African Sicarius species, including the Six Eyed Sand Spider, were different and revived the genus Hexophthalma for them. Two new species were added to the genus in 2018, and one previously adopted species, Hexophthalma Testacea, is synonymous with the Six Eyed Sand Spider. The number of species is expected to increase with further research.
Appearance and Features
Six Eyed Sand Spider has 6 eyes, arranged in 3 dyads, which are widely spaced in a curved row. The cuticle is leathery with curved bristles and is usually burgundy or yellow in color. The Six Eyed Sand Spider is covered with fine hairs called bristles that serve to trap sand particles. This provides effective camouflage even when the spider is not hidden.
Six Eyed Sand Spider has a body length of up to 15 millimeters, and its paws are about 50 millimeters wide. Most species are reddish-brown or yellow in color with no clear patterns. Six Eyed Sand Spiders often disguise themselves with sand particles sandwiched between body hairs to blend in with the background of their particular habitat. Six Eyed Sand Spiders are shy and secretive but will bite if accidentally touched.
Fun fact: Six Eyed Sand Spiders can live up to 15 years, four times longer than the average spider.
These free-living spiders are terrestrial animals and have a uniform tan overall color. Six Eyed Sand Spiders appear dusty and sandy and take on the color of the land they live on.
Based on evolutionary evidence, the Six Eyed Sand Spiders are believed to have originated in western Gondwana, which is one of two supercontinents that existed about 500 million years ago. Because they colonized this land a long time ago, these spiders are sometimes referred to as “living fossils.” The current distribution of the family of these spiders is mainly found in Africa and Latin America. This divergence is believed to have occurred when the supercontinents parted about 100 million years ago, separating Africa from America.
The Six Eyed Sand Spider can be found in the sandy regions of South and Central America. This spider lives in the desert and hunts in ambush. Unlike most hunters, who wait in ambush for their prey, Six Eyed Sand Spider does not dig a hole. Instead, it hides right under the surface of the sand. It has a poison that can potentially be fatal, can damage the heart, kidneys, liver, and arteries, and cause flesh to rot.
These spiders do not make cobwebs but instead lies half in the sand, waiting for the prey to pass by. They are widespread but more common in dry areas. The Six Eyed Sand Spider has a poor sense of direction, unlike other spider species.
Food and Water
The Six Eyed Sand Spider doesn’t wander around looking for prey, it just waits for an insect or scorpion to pass. When he does this, he grabs the prey with his front legs, kills it with poison, and eats it. Six Eyed Sand Spiders do not need to be fed very often, and adult spiders can live very long without food or water.
The Six Eyed Sand Spider catches prey by hiding under the sand. He lifts his body, digs a depression, falls into it, and then covers himself with sand using his front paws. It catches prey with its front paws when the victim runs across a hidden spider. If the Six Eyed Sand Spider is detected, it will become covered in fine sand particles that adhere to the cuticle, acting as effective camouflage.
The main food of this spider is insects and scorpions, and they can wait up to a year to eat their prey because as soon as they bite their prey, it is instantly immobilized. They feed on passing insects that quickly emerge from the sand when disturbed. During self-absorption, soil particles can adhere to specialized hairs that cover the spiders’ bodies, changing their natural coloration to that of the environment. While some predators have to deal with the problem of finding and capturing their prey, this spider allows prey to approach it. Living modestly and leading a sedentary lifestyle, the spider disguises itself by burying and sticking to sand particles and will wait until any prey gets too close. As soon as the prey is in sight, the spider comes out of the sand and bites the prey, immediately injecting a deadly poison into it. The insect is immediately immobilized, and death occurs within a few seconds.
The necrotic effects of Six Eyed Sand Spider venom are caused by a family of sphingomyelinase D proteins present in the venom of all spiders of this genus. In this respect, the genus resembles the Recluse Spiders. However, most species have been poorly understood, and the detailed effects of their venom in humans and other vertebrates are unknown.
Features of Temperament and Lifestyle
Fortunately, this spider is very shy. However, research has shown that this spider venom is the most poisonous of all spiders. There is some question about the danger this spider poses. Although they are very shy and unlikely to bite humans, there is very little (if any) poisoning in humans by this species. However, studies have shown that the poison is particularly potent, with a powerful hemolytic effect (rupture of red blood cells and the release of hemoglobin into the surrounding fluid) and necrotic effect (accidental death of cells and living tissue), causing blood to leak from vessels and tissue destruction.
The Six Eyed Sand Spider bite causes many problems, including:
- leakage of blood vessels;
- thinning blood;
- tissue damage.
Unlike dangerous neurotoxic spiders, there is currently no antidote for this spider’s bite, leading many to suspect that the spider’s bite could be fatal. There were no confirmed human bites, there were only two suspected cases. However, in one of these cases, the victim lost an arm due to massive necrosis, and in another, the victim died from severe bleeding, similar to the effects of a rattlesnake bite.
Fun Fact: The Six Eyed Sand Spider rarely comes into contact with humans, and even when it does, it usually never bites. Also, like most spiders, it doesn’t always inject venom with every bite, and even so, it doesn’t necessarily inject a large amount.
Thus, the docile behavior and natural history of Six Eyed Sand Spiders have resulted in very few reported bites, so the symptoms of their bites in humans are poorly understood.
Social Structure and Reproduction
Six Eyed Sand Spiders breed with eggs folded in silk bundles called egg sacs. Spiders often use complex mating rituals (especially in visually advanced jumping spiders) to allow the male to get close enough to inseminate the female without eliciting a predatory response. Assuming the signals to start mating are exchanged correctly, the male spider must make a timely departure after mating in order to escape before the female eats it.
Like all spiders, the Six Eyed Sand Spider is capable of producing silk from the abdominal glands. This is commonly used to create cobwebs such as spiders that can be seen every day. Six Eyed Sand Spider does not make webs, however, uses this unique ability to make silk bundles called egg sacs to surround its eggs.
Fun Fact: An egg bag is made up of many sand particles that are glued together using spider silk. Each of these egg bags can hold many juveniles.
These spiders spend a surprisingly large part of their lives in close association with sand, so it makes sense that they end up in a world mostly submerged in it. Since these spiders hide under the sand for most of their days, when the male approaches the female to mate, he does so slowly so as not to induce a fight or flight response from the female spider.
Natural Enemies of Six Eyed Sand Spiders
Six Eyed Sand Spiders have no natural enemies. They themselves are enemies to those who try to approach them. All members of the genus to which it belongs are capable of producing sphingomyelinase D or related proteins. It is a potent tissue-damaging agent unique to the spider family and otherwise found in only a few pathogenic bacteria.
The venom of many Sicariidae species is highly necrotic, in fact, capable of causing damage (open wounds). Wounds take a long time to heal and may require skin grafts. If these open wounds become infected, they can have serious consequences. Rarely, poison is carried by the bloodstream to internal organs, causing systemic effects. Like their close relatives, the Recluse Spiders, the venom of the Six Eyed Sand Spider is a powerful cytotoxin. This poison is both hemolytic and necrotic, meaning it causes blood vessel leakage and destruction of the flesh.
Most of the people bitten by the Six Eyed Sand Spider simply went too close to its hideout. To avoid damage, it is best to avoid this spider entirely, which shouldn’t be so difficult for most people when considering its habitat.
Population and Status of the Species
More than 38,000 species of Six Eyed Sand Spiders have been identified, however, due to their great ability to hide, it is believed that there are about 200,000 species. The natural habitat of the Six Eyed Sand Spider is rapidly expanding due to the spider’s reluctance to go far from home. Based on data gathered by studying the various exoskeletons that these spiders have hidden throughout their lives, individuals remain in the same place for most, if not all of their lives. The habitat of the Six Eyed Sand Spider usually consists of shallow caves, crevices, and natural ruins. They are most common in shallow sand patches due to their ability to bury themselves and adhere to sand particles. The Sicariidae family contains the well-known and dangerous Loxosceles species. Two other genera of the family, Sicarius, and Hexophthalma (Six Eyed Sand Spiders) have an exclusively cytotoxic venom, although they live in sandy deserts and rarely come into contact with humans.
The Six Eyed Sand Spider is a medium-sized spider found in deserts and other sandy areas in southern Africa with close relatives found in both Africa and South America. The Six Eyed Sand Spider is the cousin of the Recluse Spiders found all over the world. The bites of this spider rarely threaten humans, but it has been experimentally shown that they are fatal to rabbits within 5-12 hours.