Spider, Tooth Cave

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Spider, Tooth Cave

Neoleptoneta myopica

phylum: Arthropoda

class: Arachnida

order: Araneae

family: Leptonetidae

status: Data deficient, IUCN Endangered, ESA

range: USA (Texas)

Description and biology

The Tooth Cave spider is a very small, slender spider species. It measures just 0.06 inch (0.16 centimeter) long. Pale cream in color, it has relatively long legs. Because it lives in a dark cave environment, it has small, undeveloped eyes. A delicate predator, it feeds on tiny invertebrates (animals with no backbone).

Biologists (people who study living organisms) have no information on the spider's reproductive habits.

Habitat and current distribution

Tooth Cave spiders inhabit underground caves in limestone rock in the Edwards Plateau region in Travis County, Texas. In these caves, the spiders are usually found hanging from cave walls or ceilings by a single tangle or sheet web. In order to live, they require stable temperatures, high humidity, and a ready supply of small invertebrates on which to feed.

History and conservation measures

Not much is known about Tooth Cave spiders or other endangered cave invertebrates in the region because scientific studies were not undertaken there until the early 1960s.

The main threat to this spider is the loss of its habitat. Residential and urban areas continue to grow in this region. As a result, many caves have been paved over or filled in. Because the caves are formed by seeping water, any change or alteration in the flow of that water can change the environment of a cave. To meet the needs of these newly populated areas, much of this water has been diverted. Some caves have become dry while others have become flooded. Pollution from populated areas has also seeped into the groundwater, and the water in many caves has become contaminated.

Conservation efforts are underway to protect the habitat of the Tooth Cave spider and other endangered species. A protected area measuring approximately 7,000 acres (2,800 hectares) has been proposed.