Fact Check

Happy Face Spider

Rumor: Photograph shows a 'happy face spider.' Is there really such an arachnid?

Published Sept. 20, 2014


Claim:   Photograph shows a "happy face spider."


Example:   [Collected via e-mail, September 2014]

Is this real? Is there really a "happy face" spider that looks like this?


Origins:   The creature pictured above is the Theridion grallator, more commonly known as the "happy face spider." The colorful arachnid is native to four of the Hawaiian islands (Oahu, Molokai, Maui, Hawaii), where it is known in the local language as nananana makaki'i, or the

"face-patterned spider." (The word grallator in its specific name is Latin for "stilt walker," a reference to the spider's long and spindly legs.)

Although some Theridion grallator do bear markings resembling a happy face or a smiling clown on their abdomens as seen in the image shown above, the average person is unlikely to observe such markings without deliberately setting out to do so: The happy face spider is very small (about 1/5 of an inch long) and typically hides under forest leaves during the day, so one would generally have to search carefully to find an example and then examine it under a magnifying glass to glimpse a real-life example of the "happy face" markings.

Additionally, Theridion grallator is polymorphic and may exhibit one of several variant appearances depending upon such factors where it lives and what it eats, so not every happy face spider necessarily bears happy face markings:

Last updated:   20 September 2015

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

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