Embryonic development and staging of the cobweb spider Parasteatoda tepidariorum C. L. Koch, 1841 (syn.: Achaearanea tepidariorum; Araneomorphae; Theridiidae)


The cobweb spider Parasteatoda tepidariorum (C. L. Koch, 1841; syn.: Achaearanea tepidariorum) has become an important study organism in developmental biology and evolution as well as in genetics. Besides Cupiennius salei, it has become a chelicerate model organism for evo-devo studies in recent years. However, a staging system taking into account the entire development, and detailed enough to apply to modern studies, is still required. Here we describe the embryonic development of P. tepidariorum and provide a staging system which allows easy recognition of the distinct stages using simple laboratory tools. Differences between P. tepidariorum and other chelicerates, primarily C. salei, are discussed. Furthermore, cocoon production and the first postembryonic moulting procedure are described. Schematic drawings of all stages are provided to ease stage recognition.

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Anterior furrow


Anterior lateral eye


Anterior median eye




Anterior spinneret


Anal tubercle




Book lung system














Dorsal field




Extra-embryonic region


Epigastric furrow








Growth zone




Walking leg








Limb bud


Lateral furrow


Lateral subdivision




Medial subdivision


Median spinneret




Opisthosomal segment








Precheliceral region


Precheliceral lobe




Posterior lateral eye


Posterior median eye






Primary thickening


Prosomal shield


Posterior spinneret


Spinneret (Anlage)














Tracheal opening




Ventral sulcus


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The authors gratefully acknowledge A. McGregor (Oxford), M. Hilbrant (Oxford) and E. Schwager (Boston) for providing specimen of P. tepidariorum; H. Petarus (Botanical Garden, Freiburg) for allowing B. M. to collect spiders in the Botanical Garden; P. Nabavi (Freiburg) for a second determination of the ‘wild’ spiders as they are difficult to separate from Achaearanea simulans; K.-F. Fischbach (Freiburg) for providing his lab space and equipment in a non-bureaucratical and generous manner to B. M.; M. Helmstädter (Freiburg) for help with the cocoon production time lapse movie. N.-M. Prpic-Schäper (Göttingen), H. Oda and Y. Akiyama-Oda (both Osaka) provided very helpful comments on the first draft. Furthermore, H. Oda and Y. Akiyama-Oda allowed us generously to benefit from unpublished results. In addition, this article benefited from the constructive review by two anonymous reviewers. We thank J. Dunlop (Berlin) and R. Ashford (London) for improving the English. The study was supported by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (MI 1389/1-1).

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Correspondence to Beate Mittmann or Carsten Wolff.

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Communicated by V. Hartenstein

Electronic supplementary materials

Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.

This movie shows the almost complete sequence of cocoon production by a female spider. (MPG 2880 kb)

This movie shows the embryonic development of four embryos at room temperature (about 22°C). The movie starts at early stage 1 with the earliest cleavages and ends in frame 250 with the germ disc stage 3. (MPG 9772 kb)

This movie shows the embryonic development of one embryo at room temperature (about 22°C). The movie starts at late stage 1 with the first cleavages and ends in frame 850 with the stage 10.1 (limb differentiation). (MPG 9457 kb)

Supplementary Fig. 1

This figure provides a table containing lateral views of all developmental stages of Parasteatoda tepidariorum including the numbers of hours after egg laying (hAEL) at 25°C as well as a comparison to previously defined stages of P. tepidariorum and the number of the more or less correlating stages of Cupiennius salei. (PDF 1529 kb)

Supplementary Fig. 2

This figure show schematic drawings of all embryonic stages of Parasteatoda tepidariorum in frontal and lateral view. For practical reasons, the postembryo is just presented in ventral view. 1: stages 1–7, 2: stages 8–13, 3: stages 14–15 and postembryo. The pedipalpal endite is accentuated by darker colour. (PDF 306 kb)

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Mittmann, B., Wolff, C. Embryonic development and staging of the cobweb spider Parasteatoda tepidariorum C. L. Koch, 1841 (syn.: Achaearanea tepidariorum; Araneomorphae; Theridiidae). Dev Genes Evol 222, 189–216 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00427-012-0401-0

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  • Parasteatoda/Achaearanea tepidariorum
  • Embryonic development
  • Staging
  • Embryogenesis
  • Cupiennius salei
  • Morphogenesis