Top Ten Wildlife Areas We Love (and Would Hate to Lose)

Kauai Wolf Spider
Kauai Wolf Spider
With fewer dark places to hide, the wolf spider now faces the shadow of extinction (USFWS/W.P.Mull)

Why We Love It:

Not the world's most cuddly creature, this arthropod was discovered in 1975 and dwells solely in caves on Hawaii's Kauai Island. It is the only known wolf spider entirely without eyes, and hunts by sensing chemical compounds on the ground. The spider doesn't weave webs, but actively stalks and attacks prey.

Where It's Happiest:

Kauai wolf spiders live in the lava tubes and fissures of Kauai's Koala region, and are restricted to completely dark, moist areas. They move into smaller, wetter caves when the weather is dry. They feed on the Kauai cave amphipod, another endangered species. Since tagging the spiders is out of the question, little is known about their social habits.

The Cold, Hard Numbers:

The spiders are found in only three known cave systems on the island, covering just 6.5 square miles. Little is known about previous or current populations, but the spiders are essentially "trapped" in their current habitat.

Who's to Blame:

Road, agricultural, and other development have cut into the already limited area where the spider lives. Pesticides and non-native worms have also had an impact on the population.

When It's Gone:

Cave-dwelling creatures in Hawaii generally inhabit the younger islands. At 5.6 million years old, Kauai is the oldest island in the archipelago, with limited volcanic cave systems, making the wolf spider and its prey (the only cave-dwelling creatures on the island) unique specimens.

Signs of Life:

The wolf spider won its first victory in 2000, when the USFWS stepped in and listed the spider as endangered, effectively blocking a proposed road that would have run over its habitat. Conflicts between landowners, developers, and environmentalists continue.

Published: 18 Mar 2004 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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