Spider Happy Face

Scientifically, this tiny arachnid goes by the name of Theridion grallator – but it takes little imagination to see how it got its more popular name: the happy-face spider.

Found only in rainforests in the Hawaiian islands, the spiders have a vast range of patterns and colours on their abdomens – yet all come from the same species.

The spiders are 5mm (less than a quarter of an inch) long and live alone on the underside of leaves – except during their mating season and for the first 40 to 100 days of spiderlings’ lives, when they are still too young to fend for themselves.

Spider View: Scientists think the happy-face spider has evolved its patterns to confuse predators


The moment it takes an aggressor to work out whether the spider is prey or not provides a vital chance of escape.

However, the species, which was discovered in 1973, is now under threat from the introduction of non-native animals to the islands.

The most common form – or ‘morph’ – is plain yellow and has no smile. But other variations are plentiful – the ‘red front’ morph pictured here with a cluster of her eggs is the second-most common.


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