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Wolf Spider Sounds

Drumming Wolf Spider

Rdeysky Reserve, Novgorodskaya oblast, Russia
Recommended charity: Wildlife Conservation Society

The incredible sound of a male wolf spider (Hygrolycosa rubrofasciata) drumming to attract a mate. These spiders create this rattling sound by striking their abdomen against leaves on the ground.

Though the sounds made by these spiders have a frequency range between 1 and 8 kHz, and are therefore audible to humans from up to 33 feet (10m) away, it may be unlikely that you would realize what you’re hearing even if you happened to stumble across one. Therefore, relish the chance to zero in on the world of leaf litter beneath our feet by listening to these wolf spider sounds: fast pulses of rattling twangs.

And read on for some further fascinating details!

Where do drumming wolf spiders live?

Wolf spiders (Lycosidae, the family to which H. rubrofasciata belongs) mostly live and hunt alone, and generally do not make webs. 

The drumming wolf spider, which measures 5 to 6mm in length, is distributed across Europe and into Russia. Due to a preference for damp habitats, where it is usually found at ground level, it is limited to moors, swamps, and wet meadows and woodland. As many of these environments are under threat from human activity (for example, the draining of wetlands) and/or climate change, the drumming wolf is particularly endangered in Austria and Germany.

Do wolf spiders make a sound?

Yes, male wolf spiders make a distinctive drumming sound to attract a mate. For H. rubrofasciata too, the species you can hear in the above recording, drumming is a form of acoustic sexual signaling. During the species’ springtime mating season, dry leaves and grass create a complex litter habitat. Males drum on the uppermost layer of leavers, creating vibrations which travel both through the substrate and as airborne vibrations.

While drumming, males’ metabolic rates increase to 22 times more than when at rest, and four times more than during active movement. Such energy expenditure means that drumming comes at a high cost of mortality for H. rubrofasciata. Given this cost, studies suggest that drumming is an accurate indication of male ‘quality’. Therefore, females prefer to mate with males which are capable of drumming at a high rate (rather than, say, on the basis of body mass). To indicate willingness to mate, a female will respond to male drumming with drumming of her own.

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