Brush-Footed Trapdoor Spiders

Family Barychelidae

Two-doored tree trapdoor, Barychelidae, Sason colemani, female The small Sason colemani builds its burrow on a tree. Intertidal trapdoor, Barychelidae, Idioctis yerlata, door Oyster spider trapdoor in intertidal zone.


Small to medium-sized spiders that can climb smooth vertical surfaces, including glass. They have two small stumpy spinnerets at the end of or just under the body. The head is brown, rarely black, but then with a bush of silver hairs. The body is often mottled brown, sometimes black and hairy.

They can climb glass quickly (from the brush-feet), an ability otherwise seen only in young tarantulas.

Diversity & distribution

Australia and the islands of the Western Pacific, especially including New Caledonia, are the world centre of diversity of this family.

Brush-footed trapdoors have managed to move back into the ocean, from where most arachnids originally came. Many are rainforest animals but many species occur in dry regions, like the Pilbara, Western Australia.

In Western Australia, Brush-footed trapdoors are protected because they are listed as "short range endemics". That means they are believed to occur only in very limited areas and may be threatened by mining activity.


These spiders burrow, usually with a door (or two!) either at the burrow entrance or down the burrow. Most burrow in the soil but some, like the small and beautiful Sason, build on trees. The cryptic burrows of the Brisbane Brush-footed trapdoor can be found in the top few centimetres of soil in many suburbs.

In the tropics, the Oyster spider (Idioctis yerlata) constructs its burrows in holes in mangroves; the water-tight door is covered at half tide. Nearby, the small and beautiful Sason colemani builds a shallow burrow with two doors, back to back, on trees.

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