Anyone who knows me knows that I am not the biggest fan of spiders. I think it stems from dreams I had as a kid of spiders crawling all over my bed, aagh! So for me to write a blog about a spider must mean that they are pretty cool. Putting my personal feelings aside, I bring to you this week: the turret spider.
It should be no surprise that my desire to continue learning about my environment comes from time spent in the forest. My accumulated knowledge about every plant, animal, lichen and insect, I pass along to others through my teaching. So when I came upon these amazingly small, tunnel-like structures among the redwood duff I was immediately curious about them.
Turret spiders are related to tarantulas and part of a larger group of folding trapdoor spiders. They are found only in California and live in moist forests, often near streams. The coolest thing about these spiders is the burrows they build. They build “turrets” on the forest floor and cover the sides with plant material to camouflage them. They spend just about all of their time in their silk-lined burrows except to feed. At night they wait, sitting at the top of the turret until they sense vibrations on the outside. They will then lunge out and capture their prey – usually insects, millipedes or other arthropods – and quickly return back to their burrow.
Turret spiders are susceptible to dehydration so they can’t roam too far from their homes. For this reason, young spiders will often make burrows close to the parent not risking a trek across the forest to find a new location. So if you find one burrow, you will most likely find many more in the same area.
Just another thing to keep your eyes peeled for on your next hike. Check out this cool video of a turret spider by Trent Pearce: