Identifying spider families and genera

Hi everyone!
Since joining iNaturalist, I’ve obtained an interest in… spiders! However, I can’t really identify most of them right now, aside from basic things such as “It’s a Jumping spider” and some specific genera and species that I think I am at least somewhat familiar with.

Unfortunately, I can’t seem to find the distinguishing characteristics of spider genera and families on the internet, so if anyone has some helpful links, please do share! For genera, I’m particularly interested in genera of the families Salticidae and Theridiidae.

Yes, I am aware that some genera or families may be impossible to differentiate without some equipment such as microscopes or extremely careful and detailed examination, but I’d like to know the differences anyway!

Thank you!


Eye arrangement, body shape

Oh, there’s some gorgeous spiders in those groups. Especially the peacock spiders in Salticidae and the mirror spiders in Theridiidae.

To id families:


available also online:


Eye configuration seems to be one technique for identifying spiders to family. For example:

From this site. Looks like other distinguishing characteristics are “arrangement of trichobothria (special thin sensory hairs), spines, and the claws at the ends of the legs.”, courtesy of this page from the Burke Museum.

BugGuide is a resource for North American entomology but their page on Spider Eye Arrangements is a nice guide for showing how many eyes a particular family of spiders has as well as a drawing of the arrangement and some example photos.

If there is a local guide to spiders for your area (Java, Indonesia) there will hopefully also be a guide or key to features at the front that would be helpful. At least, that’s the case for my copy of 한국의 거미 (“The Spiders of Korea”).


As far as recognizing genera and species go, this might be something that you’ll gradually develop on your own. I’ve noticed my spider identification skills have improved after spending time flipping through particular sections of my local (well, country) spider guide.

For example, in South Korea a Tetragnathidae with streaks of green on the bottom of the abdomen is typically in Leucauge, a jumping spider with a white band around the cephalothorax is either Evarcha or Carrhotus, a Philodromidae with a kite symbol on the thorax is in Thanatus, etc.

Noticing similarities like these helps in identification – both directly and in more quickly knowing where to look in my guide to find associated species to refine my ID. Of course, then there are the other times when I find myself flipping through hundreds of pages because I have no idea what section to visit first to narrow down my search. But I usually end up finding something new and/or neat each time so it’s not a complete waste of time.


I did create aSpiders of Java Guide although currently its really only a checklist of the species found in Java.
As others have told you, families can be told apart by their eyes and general habit. I suggest the the books An Introduction to the Spiders of Southeast Asia (Murphy & Murphy) and Borneo Spiders (Koh & Bay) if you found yourself even more interested.
As for the generas and species of southeast asia, the main problem is the general taxonomy is still a mess and theres few research on spiders here compared to other region. The Murphy&Murphy book provide a general idea of the generas present although not quite detailed into species. I myself learned about the spiders slowly, looking up at the [World Spider Catalog] ( whenever i see a new spider (though oftentimes not succesful IDing it really). Nicky Bay also has a nice gallery of spider pics at his flickr account.
Feel free to contact me if you wanna know more about the spiders from Indonesia (at least the one i know!)


I put this little flash card set together for families. It is based on UK families so some may be missing for other regions and cards that say “only one species” or whatever may be not be correct for your region either. However, I imagine the family features (Other than size) are the same or similar across the board.

Hope it helps:


Hey! In addition to what others have suggested, you should definitely check out the new Spider Families of the World Book edited by Norman Platnick. It covers all the spider families (focusing on one genus per family). It mostly covers natural history, but also some identification.


Thank you for all the replies everyone!

Thanks for posting the guides for matching eye patterns and head shapes to the families! This is the sort of thing I was looking for. It will definitely be helpful.

On the suggested books, thanks for recommending them, I’ll see if I can get my hands on them sometime.


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