Wolf Spider Mystery

by Eric Neubauer

I’ve been watching a large population of Hogna wolf spiders growing up on my property since winter. I’ve submitted photographs to both iNaturalist and BugGuide, and people there don’t hesitate to confirm them all as Hogna antelucana.

Specimen of hogna wolf spider with the vee shape pinched shut.

Nevertheless, I found I can easily sort them into two groups from a fairly young age on. The markings on this species are quite variable in general, but one reliable difference between the two groups is in a lightly colored vee shape near the back of the head. The vee points toward the back and is open at about a 35 degree angle on one type and is pinched shut on the other.

Specimen with an open vee shape.

There are other small differences, but they are harder to define and less consistent.

At first I thought it might be a case of sexual dimmorphism, but lately I think there may be two different species.

The dark one.

The third example has the open vee, hard to see because the spider is looking up, and is very dark with none of the warmer tones these spiders usually have. It is the only one like that I’ve seen and perhaps lacks the ability to produce an orangish pigment.

It is one of several mysteries to keeping life interesting.

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