Invertebrate Systematics Invertebrate Systematics Society
Systematics, phylogeny and biogeography

A revision of Herennia (Araneae : Nephilidae : Nephilinae), the Australasian ‘coin spiders’

Matjaž Kuntner

A Department of Entomology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, NHB-105, PO Box 37012, Washington, DC 20013-7012, USA and Department of Biological Sciences, George Washington University, 2023 G St. N.W., Washington, DC 20052, USA.

B Present address: Institute of Biology, Scientific Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts, Novi trg 2, PO Box 306, SI-1001 Ljubljana, Slovenia.

C Email:

Invertebrate Systematics 19(5) 391-436
Submitted: 14 June 2005  Accepted: 23 September 2005   Published: 12 December 2005


The nephilid ‘coin spiders’ (Herennia Thorell) are known for their arboricolous ladder webs, extreme sexual size dimorphism and peculiar sexual biology. This paper revises Herennia taxonomy, systematics, biology and biogeography. The widespread Asian Herennia multipuncta (Doleschall) ( = H. sampitana Karsch, new synonymy; = H. mollis Thorell, new synonymy) is synanthropic and invasive, whereas the other 10 species are narrowly distributed Australasian island endemics: H. agnarssoni, sp. nov. is known from Solomon Islands; H. deelemanae, sp. nov. from northern Borneo; H. etruscilla, sp. nov. from Java; H. gagamba, sp. nov. from the Philippines; H. jernej, sp. nov. from Sumatra; H. milleri, sp. nov. from New Britain; H. oz, sp. nov. from Australia; H. papuana Thorell from New Guinea; H. sonja, sp. nov. from Kalimantan and Sulawesi; and H. tone, sp. nov. from the Philippines. A phylogenetic analysis of seven species of Herennia, six nephilid species and 15 outgroup taxa scored for 190 morphological and behavioural characters resulted in 10 equally parsimonious trees supporting the monophyly of Nephilidae, Herennia, Nephila, Nephilengys and Clitaetra, but the sister-clade to the nephilids is ambiguous. Coin spiders do not fit well established biogeographic lines (Wallace, Huxley) dividing Asian and Australian biotas, but the newly drawn ‘Herennia line’ suggests an all-Australasian speciation in Herennia. To explain the peculiar male sexual behaviour (palpal mutilation and severance) known in Herennia and Nephilengys, three specific hypotheses based on morphological and behavioural data are proposed: (1) broken embolic conductors function as mating plugs; (2) bulb severance following mutilation is advantageous for the male to avoid hemolymph leakage; and (3) the eunuch protects his parental investment by fighting off rival males.


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