Wolf Spider, common name for any of a group of ground-dwelling hunting spiders. Wolf spiders occupy nearly every type of terrestrial habitat and include many of the most common and conspicuous spiders. They are particularly abundant in prairie areas and are frequently the most diverse spider group in arctic and alpine areas. There are more than 2000 wolf spider species.
K. H. Switak/Photo Researchers, Inc.
Most wolf spiders have stout bodies and long, thick legs. Their bodies are low to the ground even when walking or running, giving them the appearance of continually being on the prowl. Wolf spider species are similar in general form, but their bodies vary greatly in size, ranging from 2 mm (0.08 in) to nearly 40 mm (1.6 in) in length. They typically have two very large, forward-looking eyes in the middle of their face, flanked by two large upward-looking eyes, and a row of four smaller eyes below. Wolf spiders generally locate their prey by sight, but may also use touch to determine the nature of the prey. They use their front legs to grab prey, then bite and crush it with powerful jawlike mouth parts called chelicerae.
The hunting strategies of wolf spiders are perhaps the most diverse of any spider group. Many are active, wandering hunters during the day in sunny areas along the ground and in vegetation; others hunt at night and remain in silk-lined retreats during the day. Still others live and hunt in aquatic environments, walking on the surface of ponds or on submerged vegetation. Some wolf spiders dig burrows in which they lie in wait for passing insects and other prey. Of the spiders that dig burrows, some add a moveable trap door at the burrow entrance while others build an elevated lookout point.
The female wolf spider lays eggs in a large sac, which can be nearly as large as her own body. She attaches the egg sac to her body, and carries it until the eggs hatch. She then tears open the egg sac and the newly hatched spiders climb onto her back where they remain for up to a week.
Scientific classification: Wolf spiders are members of the family Lycosidae, in the spider order Araneae, in the class Arachnida.