Time to never go to sleep before checking under your bed again.
More than a thousand Sparassidae species occur in most warm temperate to tropical regions of the world, including much of Australasia, Africa, Asia, the Mediterranean Basin, and the Americas.
Huntsman spiders, members of the family Sparassidae (formerly Heteropodidae), are known by this name because of their speed and mode of hunting. They also are called giant crab spiders because of their size and appearance. Larger species sometimes are referred to as wood spiders, because of their preference for woody places (forests, mine shafts, woodpiles, wooden shacks). In southern Africa the genus Palystes are known as rain spiders or lizard-eating spiders. Commonly they are confused with baboon spiders from the Mygalomorphae infraorder, which are not closely related.
Several species of huntsman spider can use an unusual form of locomotion. The wheel spider (Carparachne aureoflava) from the Namib uses a cartwheeling motion, while Cebrennus rechenbergi uses a handspring motion.
Sparassids are eight-eyed spiders. The eyes appear in two largely forward-facing rows of four on the anterior aspect of the prosoma. Many species grow very large – in Laos, male giant huntsman spiders (Heteropoda maxima) attain a legspan of 25–30 centimetres (9.8–11.8 in). Persons unfamiliar with spider taxonomy commonly confuse large species with tarantulas, but huntsman spiders can generally be identified by their legs, which, rather than being jointed vertically relative to the body, are twisted in such a way that in some attitudes the legs extend forward in a crab-like fashion.
On their upper surfaces the main colours of huntsman spiders are inconspicuous shades of brown or grey, but many species have undersides more or less aposematically marked in black-and-white, with reddish patches over the mouthparts. Their legs bear fairly prominent spines, but the rest of their bodies are smoothly furry. They tend to live under rocks, bark and similar shelters, but human encounters are commonly in sheds, garages and other infrequently-disturbed places. The banded huntsman (Holconia) is large, grey to brown with striped bands on its legs. The badge huntsman (Neosparassus) is larger still, brown and hairy. The tropical or brown huntsman (Heteropoda) is also large and hairy, with mottled brown, white and black markings. The eyesight of these spiders is not nearly as good as that of the Salticidae (jumping spiders). Nevertheless, their vision is quite sufficient to detect approaching humans or other large animals from some distance.
There have been reports of members of various genera such as Palystes, Neosparassus (formerly called Olios) and several others, inflicting severe bites. The effects vary, including local swelling and pain, nausea, headache, vomiting, irregular pulse rate, and heart palpitations, indicating some systemic neurological toxin effects, especially when the bites were severe or repeated. However, the formal study of spider bites is fraught with complications, including unpredictable infections, dry bites, shock, and nocebo effects.
It is not always clear what provokes Sparassidae to attack and bite humans and animals, but it is known that female members of this family will aggressively defend their egg sacs and young against perceived threats. Bites from sparassids usually do not require hospital treatment.