Morocco, the westernmost country in Northern Africa bordering the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, is well known for its rich blend of cultures, fragrant food, and distinctive wildlife. A wide variety of terrains and climates comprise Morocco, from snowy mountains to desert plains, but you might be wondering, are there spiders in Morocco?
Morocco’s flora and fauna are correspondingly diverse to the vast landscapes that sprawl from Tangier at the strait of Gibraltar to the border with Western Sahara. Gazelles, jackals, snakes, and lizards roam the North Saharan steppe and woodlands, while Barbary macaques, leopards, and even lions, prowl the Atlas Mountains, but Morocco is also home to a number of spider species, some that could be potentially dangerous to its visitors.
From cart-wheelers to cave-dwellers, our guide looks at the unique spiders, and some more common species, that you might come across on your next trip to the Arab West. Arachnophobes, look away. We’re about to get started.
Perhaps one of the most unusual spiders in the world and endemic to Morocco is the peculiar flic-flac spider, a rare type of huntsman best known for its distinctive way of traveling. The Moroccan flic-flac spider is indigenous to the sandy Erg Chebbi desert and its rolling seas of golden dunes. The Erg Chebbi lies in an area of pre-Saharan Steppes but it’s not part of the Sahara Desert. The flic-flac spider is as unique as the lands it calls home.
Also known as the cartwheeling spider, what stands out most about the flic-flac is how it moves. When threatened, the fastest way for this spider to retreat is flipping end-over-end, like a tumbler on a gymnasium floor, at double the speed at which it can scuttle (as fast as 6.5 feet per second). You could mistake it for tumbleweed being blown by the heavy gusts that shape the Erg Chebbi dunes, but the flic-flac spider is actually very well-controlled in its movement and can even propel itself uphill.
The flic-flac spider is mostly active at night. Still, many people travel to the Erg Chebbi region of Morocco just for a chance to see it in action. The spider spends most of its days avoiding the sweltering heat in its tubelike den spun out of sand and silk, before heading out to hunt when the sun has set.
The flic-flac spider is easily recognizable when in action, but can also be distinguished by its light brown body, long legs, and the fine grey or white hairs that cover its limbs. The flic-flac is medium-sized and reaches a body length of two centimeters. Its venom might not be as potent as other huntsman species’, but it’s still a good idea to maintain a safe distance from this one as bites can cause irritation, allergic reactions, and even lead to deadly infections.
Also known as “wind scorpions” or giant Egyptian solpugids, camel spiders are a common desert-dwelling species, but that doesn’t make them any less daunting.
They’ve earned their nickname from their elongated yellow or brown (sometimes black) translucent bodies and strong front pedipalps that often get them confused with scorpions. However, the appendages of the camel spider lack pincers and are used to sense vibrations and catch prey instead. Camel spiders have large distinctive jaws, but also lack stingers.
Camel spiders are very fast and prowl open ground at night, looking for any prey to overthrow. They’re typically found throughout the south, east, and southeastern mountains of Morocco, as well as in the deserts and even around Marrakesh, but they’re native to most deserts in the world.
They can reach speeds of 10 mph and have been known to give people a fright when hurtling towards them, allegedly screaming like banshees, but usually, camel spiders are just seeking out shade, while some species can produce a hissing or buzzing sound when they do so.
Still, camel spiders might not be venomous, but their notorious reputation precedes them. They can be very aggressive and their bite is extremely painful, potentially leading to harmful infections.
Brown Recluse Spider
The brown recluse is a globally distributed spider that’s pretty common in Moroccan homes. It has a lot of harmless look-alikes, but a bite from the real thing could be potentially dangerous and require medical attention.
As the name implies, the Loxosceles reclusa is a timid species but is distinguishable by its large brown body and long legs. Coloration ranges from tan to black-brown and the body and legs are both uniform with no stripes, bands, or mottling.
The long and thin legs of the brown recluse, measuring between 0.5 and 2 cm with 6-11 mm length bodies, can often make the spider appear much bigger and more frightening than it is, especially when you start upon one behind a toilet basin or cellar door in your home. Still, the risk of being bitten by a brown recluse is low and they shy away from humans, despite their preferred indoor habitats.
If you do receive a suspected bite, however, you should seek medical treatment as the brown recluse carries poisonous venom that can damage blood vessels and cause cell death to tissue at the site of the bite.
Little is known about the cave-dwelling spiders in Morocco, but in recent years, two new species have been discovered in a mountainous regions near Agadar: an anophthalmic troglobiont species, Agraecina agadirensis, and a new member of the genus Steatoda, both collected in a number of samples.
Before these discoveries in 2020, just seven cave spiders, or spiders of the Agraecinia genus as they’re officially acknowledged, were known to science. But none were endemic to Morocco, dwelling in Romania, the Canary Islands, Algeria, and some other North African and Western European territories instead. Cave spiders are not so much rare, but rarely seen, repelled by light and the elements.
Like some other species, one of the two new editions from Morocco is specially adapted to its habitat, with eyes that are completely absent. The Agraecina agadirensis, of which only female species have been collected and examined, most closely resembles the Romanian Agraecina cristiani, discovered in Movile Cave in 1986. The cristiani spider also often has no eyes, curiously thought to be lost at or soon after birth. Both spiders are whitish to pale yellow in color, with fine adpressed hairs, and measuring between 4 and 5 cm in length.
The second cave-dwelling spider has been more thoroughly studied, with samples of both male and female species collected. Both genders of the Steatoda ifricola spider have light to deep brown bodies, with yellowish legs and an indistinct abdomen pattern. Like many spider species, the females are bigger, reaching around 4 cm in total length, while the males average at 3.4 cm. The female spiders have recurved anterior and posterior eyes, while the posterior eye row is straight in males.
The Agraecina agadirensis is known only to one cave in Tizgui Morocco, while the Steatoda ifricola is known for three natural dry caves in the High Atlas Mountains. Both species carry no venom but their peculiar habitats and anatomy make them ever-the-intriguing arachnids.
The wolf spider is common across the globe, but the arctosa similis is an endemic species to the Canary Islands, Portugal, Croatia, and Morocco. Like other wolf spiders, it sounds a lot more formidable than it is. Wolf spiders are agile and robust hunters with exceptional eyesight, and they’re one of the fastest sprinters in the spider world, but they generally aren’t aggressive and don’t pose a threat to humans.
That said, wolf spiders are large and although not poisonous, their bite can be painful, and cause swelling, itchiness, and possible infection. They’ll only bite when threatened, which could be when you stumble across their habitat or get close to one without realizing it.
Wold spider species are hard to tell apart, and most are covered in hairs, showing various dark grey, brown, and black patterns. Sometimes the dark markings on their backs resemble a Union Jack impression, but each spider is different. Two of their eight dark eyes gleam large and bright atop their heads and they range from around 2 cm in length to 5 cm.
Wolf spiders tend to live in solitude, hunting alone with a diet made up exclusively of insects, although less commonly they resort to amphibians and small reptiles. Wolf spiders do not spin webs, but they live just about anywhere. They are common in homes in Morocco, as well as throughout the US, Europe, Asia, and Africa, dwelling in grasslands and meadows, mountains, deserts, rainforests, and even volcanic lava tubes too.
What is the most dangerous animal in Morocco?
Morocco is home to a number of dangerous animals, with big cats, scorpions, and snakes all being contenders for the top spot. In fact, Morocco is home to lions and leopards, as well as 3,000 different species of snake, 200 of which are venomous, but scorpions prove the most harmful, being responsible for around 30,000 bites every year in Morocco alone.
Are there crocodiles in Morocco?
Morocco was once home to abundant numbers of West African crocodiles which are related to Nile crocodiles but are smaller and less aggressive. However, West African crocodiles are now extinct in the wild in Morocco due to increased aridity and hunting.
West African crocodiles are native to several countries in Northwest Africa and are even found in South Sudan, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo where they may come in contact with Nile crocodiles.
What spiders do cartwheels?
The flic-flac spider, indigenous to Morocco’s Erg Chebbi desert dunes, is otherwise known as the cartwheeling spider thanks to its speedy rolling method of movement which it can even perform uphill at speeds of more than six feet a second. However, the golden rolling spider is another peculiar cartwheeling arachnid, exhibiting a similar flipping behavior when escaping prey, but it can only carry out its cartwheels downhill with the help of gravity. The golden rolling spider is also a species of huntsman, but it is native to the Namib Desert in Southern Africa.
What is the most poisonous spider in the world?
According to The Guinness Book of World Records, the Brazilian wandering spider is the most venomous arachnid in the world, with hundreds of near-fatal bites reported annually in which most deaths are prevented by a powerful and widely distributed anti-venom. The venom of the Brazilian wandering spider is toxic to the human nervous system and can cause cardiac arrest and anaphylactic shock in some victims.
Brazilian wandering spiders belong to the order Phoneutria, meaning “murderess” in Greek, but they’re also known as banana spiders since they often hide in banana leaves. There are nine species of Phoneutria and they’re found throughout Central and South America.