Do Spiders Have Tongues? (And 3 Other Wild Spider Facts)

wolf spider
© Vida Shams/Shutterstock.com

Written by Heather Hall

Updated: June 23, 2023

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As humans, we tend to think of ourselves as the most complex and fascinating creatures on Earth. But have you ever stopped to consider the incredible intricacies of some of our smaller counterparts? Spiders, for example, are often seen as creepy crawly pests that are best avoided. However, these eight-legged wonders actually possess a multitude of fascinating traits that make them truly remarkable creatures. In this article, we will explore some wild spider facts – including whether or not they have tongues – that will leave you with a newfound appreciation for these often-overlooked arachnids. So sit back and get ready to be amazed at what spiders can do!

What is a Spider?

Jumping Spider

Spiders are arachnids with eight legs and no tongue.

©Sari ONeal/Shutterstock.com

A spider is an arachnid with eight legs that belongs to the class Arachnida and the order Araneae. These creatures are known for their ability to spin webs, which they use for hunting prey or creating nests. Spiders have two main body parts: the cephalothorax (the head and thorax combined) and the abdomen. They also possess specialized structures called chelicerae, which contain fangs used to inject venom into their prey.

There are more than 45,000 different species of spiders worldwide, each with unique adaptations that allow them to thrive in a variety of environments. While most spiders are harmless to humans, some species can be dangerous if provoked or threatened. It’s important to note that not all spiders spin webs. Some hunt actively by chasing down their prey or waiting patiently in ambush.

Overall, these fascinating creatures play an important role in maintaining ecological balance by controlling insect populations and serving as a food source for other animals. Despite common fears about spiders, they deserve our respect and appreciation for their contributions to our world!

Do Spiders Have Tongues?

Male Paraphidippus aurantius, emerald jumping spider

Spiders do not have tongues.

©DWI YULIANTO/Shutterstock.com

Have you ever taken a closer look at spiders and their body parts? They don’t possess tongues the way humans do, so they use other methods to consume food. Instead of tongues, they taste their meals with their legs and swallow them with suction created by their stomachs. As a result, spiders don’t need to chew their prey; they just turn it into a liquid.

Spiders are arachnids that have two body sections – the cephalothorax (which is a combination of a head and thorax) and an abdomen with eight legs. Unlike humans, spiders do not have tongues but instead have chelicerae which are hook-shaped jaws with tapered edges. These jaws help them to hold and break down their prey into a macerated bolus. Some spiders move their fangs vertically, while others move them horizontally, like a pincer.

Spiders possess venom glands inside their chelicerae to use for protection, hunting, and breaking down food. Behind the chelicerae are a pair of flat cuticle plates: the upper lip is called the labrum, and the lower one is called the labium. Inside the lips is a tube-like mouth opening behind the spider’s jaws. The front end of the labium has an edge full of hairs that works as a filter, preventing solid food from entering its mouth.

If Spiders Don’t Have Tongues, How Do They Eat?

Are Yellow Garden Spiders Poisonous or Dangerous - Yellow Garden Spider
Spiders don’t have teeth to chew their food.

Well, if spiders don’t have tongues, then how on earth do they eat their food? Two short appendages, called pedipalps, are located near the spider’s chelicerae, and the first pair of legs are used as arms to hold food. These organs also act as “taste buds” for spiders, as they contain chemical detectors that allow them to smell and taste their food.

Spiders don’t have teeth or large jaws to chew their prey, so they have to consume food in liquid form. To do this, some spiders will mash their prey with their jaws after dousing it with digestive fluid. Other spiders, such as crab spiders and cobweb weavers, don’t have the jaw strength to crush their food, so they resort to drooling digestive liquid over it to predigest it.

Spiders don’t have the ability to grasp their prey firmly, so they use their silk to wrap their prey and immobilize it. After that, they bite the prey and inject digestive substances into it, liquifying the internal parts. The spider then sucks out the predigested parts through its mouth and discards the empty shell.

The spider’s stomach is capable of producing a suction-like motion that allows it to consume food. This suction is created by muscles that expand and contract like a pump, allowing the food to enter the foregut where it is stored. Digestive fluid is then sent up and down the digestive tract to help break down the food, and then it goes to the hindgut to finish the digestion process. I guess spiders don’t need a tongue after all!

Some Spiders Like to Fish

Are Spiders Insects

Ogre-faced spider, or net-casting spider, fashions a fishing net to catch their prey.

©Ondrej Michalek/Shutterstock.com

In addition to the fact that spiders don’t have tongues, spiders are known for their incredible hunting abilities and have developed ingenious ways to capture prey. One such spider is the ogre-faced spider, which weaves a net between its front legs and suspends itself above locations where prey is likely to pass through. This spider uses its web like a net and scoops up unsuspecting victims as they move past.

Another fascinating technique used by spiders is that of bolas spiders. These arachnids use a long line of silk ended with a spot of sticky glue called a bolas, which they swing at nearby moths in order to catch them. It’s akin to using a fishing line – the spider casts out its line towards passing moths and waits patiently until one becomes stuck before reeling it back in.

Both these methods showcase how cleverly spiders have adapted their hunting techniques over time in order to survive and thrive in different environments around the world. As scientists continue to study these creatures, there’s no doubt that even more amazing discoveries will be made about their unique skills and behaviors when it comes to catching prey.

Some Spiders Disguise Themselves as Ants

Crematogaster cerasi workers clean their nest in spring, removing dead ants in Victoriaville, Quebec. Macro close-up of acrobat ants interacting in a woodland ecosystem, showcasing nature and wildlife

Many types of spiders mimic ants to blend in.

©Pascal Guay/Shutterstock.com

Spiders have evolved a unique and fascinating way to survive in the wild by mimicking ants. This adaptation has been observed in over 100 different species of spiders, which have developed similar appearances and pheromones to make themselves indistinguishable from their ant counterparts. The primary motivation behind this behavior is self-defense against predators that might otherwise prey on them.

However, some species of spiders use this disguise to help them hunt down ants instead. One such predator is the melanotarsa jumping spider, which cleverly uses its deception to lure unsuspecting ants into its grasp. These types of spiders are highly skilled hunters and can be found all over the world. These spiders don’t need tongues to eat the ants. They use their powerful digestive fluids to turn them into liquid before swallowing them.

Interestingly enough, some take things further by adopting a zig-zag walking pattern or waving their front legs in the air as if they were antennae. It’s truly remarkable how these creatures have adapted so effectively to their environment and continue to thrive today despite facing numerous challenges along the way.

Some Spiders Like to Be Eaten

Northern black widow, Latrodectus variolus

Several types of widow spiders eat their mates. And some male spiders force-feed themselves to their partners!

©iStock.com/NajaShots

While it is true that black widows are infamous for their tendency to cannibalize their mates, it turns out that this behavior isn’t as common across all species of spiders. In fact, there’s one type of spider – the red widow – where the male actually goes out of his way to be eaten by his female partner.

In a gruesome display of devotion, male red widows will actively force-feed themselves to females by placing themselves directly into her mandibles. If the female rejects him and attempts to spit him back out, he’ll simply keep putting himself in harm’s way until she eventually relents and consumes him whole.

It’s unclear why these spiders engage in such macabre behavior, but some experts speculate that this may help ensure successful fertilization or increase the chances of offspring survival. Regardless of the reason behind it, one thing is certain: when it comes to mating rituals in the animal kingdom, few can compare with the bizarre and sometimes terrifying habits of our eight-legged friends.


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About the Author

Heather Hall is a writer at A-Z Animals, where her primary focus is on plants and animals. Heather has been writing and editing since 2012 and holds a Bachelor of Science in Horticulture. As a resident of the Pacific Northwest, Heather enjoys hiking, gardening, and trail running through the mountains with her dogs.

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