The Wolf Spiders (Araneae, Lycosidae) of Australia

History and Overview

(c) by Volker W. Framenau, Phoenix Environmental Sciences, 1/511 Wanneroo Road, Balcatta, Western Australia 6021

The history of Australian Wolf spider taxonomy commenced in 1837 with the description of Lycosa irrorata Walckenaer, subsequently listed as 'nicht zu deuten' (nomen dubium) by Roewer (1955c) (At present, the whereabouts of the holotype of Lycosa irrorata is unknown, and I would certainly be happy obtaining any information which may lead to locating this specimen).

The first species currently recognised for the Australian fauna, was described by Carl Ludwig Koch in 1847, Lycosa funesta C. L. Koch, 1847 (transferred to the Australasian genus Venatrix; Framenau and Vink, 2001 ).

Carl L. Koch's work was continued by his son, Ludwig Koch, who, between 1865 and 1878 described 43 (!) of the currently (June 2017) 145 recognised species. He described most of these in his  'Die Arachniden Australiens. Nach der Natur abgebildet und beschrieben' (1871-1883). This monumental work, continued by Graf Freiherr von Keyserling, still remains the most elaborate work on Australian wolf spider taxonomy to date, and most likely on Australian spiders as a whole. Ludwig Koch based his descriptions mainly on material from the Museum Godeffroy (today mainly housed in the British Museum of Natural History, London, the Zoologisches Staatsinstitut und Zoologisches Museum, University Hamburg) and the Zoologische Museum of the Humboldt-University, Berlin.

Subsequently, four arachnologists contributed majorly to the Australian wolf spider taxonomy, in many cases based on material from early scientific expeditions into central Australia:

Other arachnologists who contributed to the Australian Wolf Spider taxonomy included E. Strand, E. Karsch, A. T. Urquhart, W. J. Rainbow, R. H. Pulleine, and P. T. Lehtinen & H. Hippa. The most recent additions to the Australian wolf spider were contributed by C. Vink, J.-S. Yoo and myself, with a number of generic revisions mainly in the subfamilies Venoniinae (e.g. Anomalosa and Venonia) and Artoriinae (e.g. Artoria, Artoriopsis, and Diahogna). A few recent reviews concerned the Lycosinae (e.g. Venatrix, Tuberculosa, Dingosa and the monotypic genera Knoelle and Mainosa), but the generic arrangement in this subfamily does not reflect their phylogeny.

Between 1955 and 1960, Carl Friedrich Roewer, a German arachnologist who revised many lycosid genera based on material mainly collected in Africa, had a major impact on world wide lycosid systematics. He re-defined and described a large number of genera using ill-defined, non-genitalic characters which have subsequently been proven to be unreliable in wolf spider taxonomy. Consequently, his genera do not in any way reflect phylogenetic relationships for Australian wolf spiders. The problem with Roewer's classification was summed up accurately by Brignoli (1983, page 432) and still stands today:
"N.B. it is apparent that most recent students of this group [Lycosidae] give little value to most of the genera described by Roewer in 1954 and 1960: still it is necessary to list them as no acceptable new 'system' has yet been proposed. Guy (1966, 1969) has proposed many synonymies and has downgraded many genera to subgenus rank; as this author based his conclusions more on nomenclature than on the study of material (or even of the original descriptions) I cannot accept his conclusions."

173 wolf spider species in 27 genera are recognised in Australia today. Genera that presumably do not occur in Australia, i.e. the species in these genera still require revisionary work, are indicated with an "ª":


Number of species

Subfamily Zoicinae


Zoica Simon, 1898


Subfamily Venoniinae


Allotrochosina Roewer, 1960


Anomalosa Roewer, 1960


Venonia Thorell, 1894


Subfamily Artoriinae


Artoria Thorell, 1877


Artoriopsis Framenau, 2017


Diahogna Roewer, 1960


Kangarosa Framenau, 2010


Tetralycosa Roewer, 1960


Subfamily Lycosinae


Agalenocosaª Mello-Leitão, 1944


Allocosaª Banks, 1900


Alopecosaª Simon, 1885


Costacosa Framenau & Leung, 2013


Dingosa Roewer, 1960


Geolycosaª Montgomery, 1904


Hoggicosa Roewer, 1960


Hogna Simon, 1885


Knoelle Framenau, 2006


Lycosaª Latreille, 1804


Mainosa Framenau, 2006


Pardosaª C. L. Koch, 1847


Tapetosa Framenau, Main, Waldock & Harvey, 2009


Tasmanicosa Roewer, 1959


Trochosaª  C. L. Koch, 1847


Tuberculosa Framenau & Yoo, 2006


Venator Hogg, 1900


Venatrix Roewer, 1960



(c) Volker W. Framenau, 2017

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Latest update: 25 June 2017.