Family: Nephiliidae - Golden Orb Weavers
Order: Araneae - Spiders
Phylum: Arthropoda (Chelicerata) - Arachnids and relatives
Red List status: Not listed
Southern Africa to the Seychelles, including the island of Madagascar.
A very large orb-weaving spider, characterised by long, slender red legs and a highly elongated, silvery and black abdomen which may have prominent yellow markings. Females may be 20 times the size of adult males, which have more rounded abdomens with darker, black and red markings.
Web: An extremely large, classic orb web, notable for both its strength and its characteristic golden colour. Webs are typically sited up to 6 m from the ground, although may be considerably higher in anthropogenic habitats where aggregations of Nephila webs may extend between telegraph wires. Webs are attached to trees, shrubs or poles by conspicuous traplines.
Similar species: N. i. madagascariensis shares its range with subspecies of N. pilipes and N. senegalensis, which resemble it superficially. The Madagascar golden orb weaver can most reliably be distinguished from these relatives by its red legs (black in N. pilipes, banded yellow in N. senegalensis).
This spider can be very common in disturbed areas, including urban centres. However, it can be abundant in a variety of habitats, including riparian forest with low levels of disturbance.
While individuals may construct isolated webs, as do most spiders, golden orb weavers may occur in large aggregations, with numerous adjoining webs holding hundreds or thousands of individuals. Only female spiders construct webs; males occupy a female's web.
One of two subspecies of Nephila inaurata, N. i. madagascariensis has often been regarded as a full species, Nephila madagascariensis (e.g., in Garbutt et al, 2001).
See the Woodland Park Zoo's exhibit on Nephila madagascariensis from the 2004 Masters of the Web exhibition here.
Griswold, C.E. Araneae, Spiders In: Goodman, S.M. and Benstead, J.P. 2003 The Natural History of Madagascar. University of Chicago Press, London: 1709 pp
Waite, C.T., 2000 Spider Lab: Nephilinae
Body length: 60 mm 3 mm
Legspan: 200 mm+ 10 mm
Web diameter: 1 100 mm (in captivity)