Huntsman spiders, members of the familySparassidae (formerly Heteropodidae), are known by this name because of their speed and mode of hunting.
They also are called giant crab spiders because of their size and appearance. Larger species sometimes are referred to as wood spiders, because of their preference for woody places (forests, mine shafts, woodpiles, wooden shacks).
In southern Africa the genus Palystes are known as rain spiders or lizard-eating spiders. Commonly they are confused with baboon spiders from the Mygalomorphae infraorder, which are not closely related.
More than a thousand Sparassidae species occur in most warm temperate to tropical regions of the world, including much of Australasia, Africa, Asia, the Mediterranean Basin, and the Americas.
Several species of huntsman spider can use an unusual form of locomotion. The wheel spider (Carparachne aureoflava) from the Namib uses a cartwheeling motion, while Cebrennus rechenbergi uses a handspring motion.
Size of a Huntsman Spider
On average, a huntsman spider’s leg span can reach up to 6 inches (15 cm), while their bodies measure about .7 inches (1.8 cm) long.
Like most spiders, apart from the Uloboridae and some Liphistiidae and Holarchaeidae, Sparassidae use venom to immobilize prey. They have been known to inflict serious defensive bites.
There have been reports of members of various genera such as Palystes, Neosparassus (formerly called Olios) and several others, inflicting severe bites. The effects vary, including local swelling and pain, nausea, headache, vomiting, irregular pulse rate, and heart palpitations, indicating some systemic neurological toxin effects, especially when the bites were severe or repeated.