By Blythe Copeland, TreeHugger
Hate spiders? You’re not alone: These leggy arachnids are some of the most feared creatures on Earth, despite their relatively tiny size. But even these creepy crawlies play a big part in nature’s order — often in weird and intriguing ways.
The 10 spiders highlighted here include species that change colors, walk on water, are patterned with eye-catching neon stripes, and have made a miraculous comeback from extinction.
The one-of-a-kind crab spider gets its name from its ability to move sideways — like a crab — instead of just forward and back like other spiders.
They’re also famous for their color-change abilities, which allow them to camouflage themselves on brightly colored pink, yellow, or white flowers — though recent research shows that spiders who change their color aren’t necessarily more successful hunters than their more obvious counterparts.
Image: Michael Hodge / Creative Commons
You’d have to look closely to see the bright colors on the tiny jumping peacock spider — they’re only about 5 mm in size — but if you can get near enough, you’ll see colors unlike those usually found on members of the spider family.
Neon blue, yellow, orange, red, and green shades are all found on a cape-like flap that the males show off during mating rituals.
Image: jeans_Photos / Creative Commons
Bagheera Kiplingi Spider
Spiders are known for their predatory instincts, which is what sets the tiny Bagheera kiplingi jumping spider apart from its fellow arachnids: This spider is a vegetarian.
In this video, the tiny Central American spider chows down on delicious leaves; these spiders, about the size of your smallest fingernail, have even been known to hide from ants. It’s considered the first known spider to survive on a meat-free diet — which as any treehugger can tell you, is a healthy, environmentally-friendly alternative to carnivorism.
Arachnaphobes may try to point out that the world already has more than enough spider species — but the newly discovered Cerbalus aravensis, a sand spider, is one more eight-legged creature to inspire nightmares.
This spider, found by a research team in the Sands of Samar — a desert dune in Israel — has a wide, five-inch leg-span that makes it the largest spider native to the Middle East.
Since the desert is also home to a major mining operation, however, the species is considered threatened as a result of pending habitat loss (despite biologists not knowing how many of these spiders exist).
Image: Mickey Samuni-Blank / Creative Commons
Rosser’s Sac Spider
The Rosser’s Sac spider is just one of the environment’s most recent comeback stories: Believed to be extinct from its native English wetlands for more than a decade, the arachnid was rediscovered in September 2010.
After spotting one of the Rosser’s Sacs, amateur spider-lover Ian Dawson found 10 more in the same small area, leading scientists to hope that the population may be able to survive after all — but as the wetlands continue to disappear, their fate remains in jeopardy.
Fen Raft Spider
Like dock spiders, the Fen Raft spider is adept at living on or near water: These arachnids, endangered in the one part of the U.K. where they live, hunt by sensing vibrations in the water with their front legs, and then chasing after small insects, dragonfly larvae, and other water-based spiders.
Though adults live just two years and females lay hundreds of eggs at one time, the destruction of their wetland habitat is believed to be a major part of the Fen Raft spiders population decline.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Goliath Bird-Eating Spider
The Goliath is part of the tarantula family, which means it hunts with “stealth and strength” — but this big guy also comes equipped with tiny, irritating hairs that it flicks at enemies. They’re also one of the few spiders that makes noise: In this case, by brushing its hairy legs together to make a hiss.
Photo: Morkelsker/Creative Commons
TreeHugger Lloyd Alter grabbed this image of a massive dock spider that appears to be chowing down on a dead fish near his home in Canada. Though dock spiders — also known as fishing spiders — are part of the same genus as fen raft spiders, they’re much more common.
And despite the nerve-racking idea that one could take down a fish this size, they mostly survive on a diet of small insects; they’re also shy enough to run from people, but in the worst case, their bites are about as harmful as a bee sting.
Photo: Lloyd Alter
Kauai Cave Wolf Spider
The endangered Kauai Cave Wolf spider gets its name from its one lifelong habitat: the caves of Hawaii, where its born, lives, hunts, and dies.
The spiders are so accustomed to life in the pitch-black caves that they are no longer born with eyes; they feel out food using chemically-based senses. But since the spiders only live in the underground tunnels of Kauai, they are endangered as a result of habitat loss and pollution.
Image: US Fish & Wildlife Service / Creative Commons