Purse-web spider (Atypus affinis)

Male purse-web spider
Loading more images and videos...

Purse-web spider fact file

Purse-web spider description

GenusAtypus (1)

This spider belongs to the same suborder (Orthognatha) as tarantulas, funnel web spiders and trap-door spiders. Just one genus belonging to the family Atypidae is found in Britain, and it is represented by this species alone (2). The name of the suborder Orthognatha means ‘straight jawed’. This name refers to the chelicerae, a pair of appendages on the ‘head’ of the spider which are used to kill prey. In this suborder, the chelicerae project forwards from the carapace(2). This species is easy to identify, it has a squarish carapace and large, stout chelicerae, and the legs are stocky (3). Males are similar in appearance to females, but have longer legs and a thinner abdomen(2).

Male length: 7-9 mm (2)
Female length: 10-15 mm (2)

Purse-web spider biology

The web of this spider is more like a sock than a purse. The web forms a tube, part of which lines a burrow; the remainder lies along the surface of the ground, disguised with soil particles (3). When insects land on this tube, the spider grabs them with its fangs and drags them inside where they are eaten. The remains of the meal are later thrown out of the tube and the hole is repaired (2). The spider spends most of its life inside this tube; only young spiderlings and males in search of females actively wander (3).

Mating occurs in autumn. When a male finds a burrow occupied by a female he will tap on the silk tube. If the female is receptive, she allows the male to enter the burrow where they mate. They live together in the female’s burrow for a time until the male dies. The female eats the male, and the nutrients contained within his body contribute to the developing eggs. The female produces an egg sac which she suspends within the tube. The eggs hatch the next summer but the young spiders will not disperse until the spring of the following year. It takes around 4 years for individuals to reach sexual maturity. Males die following mating, but the females live for several years more (3).


Purse-web spider range

This spider is found mainly in southern England, but has been found in Scotland and Wales (2). In Europe this species has a wide range, reaching as far north as Denmark (3).

You can view distribution information for this species at the National Biodiversity Network Atlas.

Purse-web spider habitat

Inhabits rough grassland and heathland (2) on sandy or chalky soils (3).


Purse-web spider status

This widespread species is not threatened. It is not listed under any conservation designations (3).


Purse-web spider threats

This species is not threatened.


Purse-web spider conservation

Conservation action has not been targeted at this widespread species.

There may be further information about this species available via the National Biodiversity Network Atlas.

Find out more

Roberts, M.J. (1995) Spiders of Britain and northern Europe. Harper Collins Publishers Ltd. London.

For more on British spiders see The British Arachnological Society:



Information authenticated by Dr Peter Merrett of the British Arachnological Society:



In arthropods (crustaceans, insects and arachnids) the abdomen is the hind region of the body, which is usually segmented to a degree (but not visibly in most spiders). In crustacea (e.g. crabs) some of the limbs attach to the abdomen; in insects the limbs are attached to the thorax (the part of the body nearest to the head) and not the abdomen. In vertebrates the abdomen is the part of the body that contains the internal organs (except the heart and lungs).
The top shell of a turtle. In arthropods (insects, crabs etc), the fused head and thorax (the part of the body located near the head) also known as ‘cephalothorax’.
Pair of appendages on the ‘head’ of an arachnid (spiders, scorpions, mites, harvestmen etc). In spiders and harvestmen these appendages are jointed and are used to kill prey, and in defence. In spiders there is a poison gland at the base of each chelicera, from where a duct leads to the tip of the fang.
A category used in taxonomy, which is below ‘family’ and above ‘species’. A genus tends to contain species that have characteristics in common. The genus forms the first part of a ‘binomial’ Latin species name; the second part is the specific name.


  1. National Biodiversity Network Species Dictionary (September 2003) http://www.nhm.ac.uk/nbn/
  2. Roberts, M.J. (1993) The spiders of Great Britain and Ireland Part 1- text. Harley Books, Colchester.
  3. Roberts, M.J. (1995) Spiders of Britain and northern Europe. Harper Collins Publishers Ltd. London.

Image credit

Male purse-web spider  
Male purse-web spider

© Dr Peter Merrett

Dr Peter Merrett
6 Hillcrest
Durlston Road
BH19 2HS
United Kingdom
Tel: 01929 423883


Link to this photo

Arkive species - Purse-web spider (Atypus affinis) Embed this Arkive thumbnail link ("portlet") by copying and pasting the code below.

Terms of Use - The displayed portlet may be used as a link from your website to Arkive's online content for private, scientific, conservation or educational purposes only. It may NOT be used within Apps.

Read more about



MyARKive offers the scrapbook feature to signed-up members, allowing you to organize your favourite Arkive images and videos and share them with friends.

Play the Team WILD game:

Team WILD, an elite squadron of science superheroes, needs your help! Your mission: protect and conserve the planet’s species and habitats from destruction.

Conservation in Action

Which species are on the road to recovery? Find out now »

Help us share the wonders of the natural world. Donate today!


Back To Top