The spiders of Europe, those creepy-crawlies that bring some people out in a cold sweat, are the stars of a website set up by Swiss and German researchers.
For those who are not so squeamish, the internet site says spiders are “an important part of our biodiversity”, with 4,000 species found in Europe out of a total of 40,000 worldwide.
They show unique features such as web spinning and venom glands, the authors said in a statement on Thursday.
The new website, Spiders of Europe (http://www.araneae.unibe.ch/), is available in English and German, provides a total of 4,000 maps and 18,000 figures.
Spiders occur in all terrestrial ecosystems, contribute considerably to the biodiversity of a habitat and, as predatory organisms, exert an important regulatory function. They are therefore a very important indicator group for the quality of a habitat, the authors said.
They also pointed out that although the spiders of several regions in Europe had been thoroughly researched, arachnology (the scientific study of spiders and the like) has remained a rather secretive science. Before 1991 there was no identification book which covered all central European species.
The Spiders of Europe website is a joint production of the Natural History Museums of Basel and Bern, the Senckenberg-Museum Frankfurt and Bern University.
swissinfo.ch and agencies