Between 550 and 600 species of spider have been identified in Liechtenstein to date. The smallest has a body only 1 millimetre long. The largest is a more impressive 2 centimetres. While all of them are venomous, none is dangerous to humans.
HORRID SPIDER? That is certainly not how Holger Frick responds when he sees a spider. While the hairy eight-legged animals trigger fear and panic in some people, they exercise a magical attraction over the 36 year-old from Balzers. I find it particularly fascinating that spiders experience the world very differently than we do. While perception for humans is mainly a visual affair, spiders achieve this through vibrations. He also finds it extremely appealing that relatively little is known about spiders. Although the classic horror stories are regularly reheated in the media, the very fascinating side of spiders is left unmentioned. There are species, for example, where the male dances before the female during the mating season. Others assume the scent of female moths, in order to attract males and to capture them with lassos. Further species have bizarrely shaped heads, reminiscent of elephant skulls or frog heads, or have protuberances, stalks or horns. This diversity fascinates him.
Another aspect of his passion for spiders is scientific, explains Frick: Many species have yet to be discovered. The arachnid family tree is very long, and completely unclear in certain areas. Holger Frick has even made a name for himself with his discoveries. In 2009 he became something of an international celebrity when he discovered a new species on Alp Flix in Grisons, and christened it the Zamonic Dwarf Spider named after the fictitious continent of Zamonia in the novels of Walter Moers. There is no reason why science shouldnt have a humorous side, says Frick with a smile. In 2012 he described another previously unknown species of dwarf spider (Diplocephalus guidoi) in Italy, and named it after his deceased grandfather, whose fascination for nature helped to shape my own outlook.
To date, no spider has been found that is exclusively indigenous to Liechtenstein. But with some 550 to 600 species of spider, the small Principality certainly has a great variety of species. This is because a huge range of altitudes exist within Liechtensteins very compact territory, meaning that a correspondingly large number of habitats are to be found. The largest species found in Liechtenstein include the wasp spider, the cross spider and the raft spider with a body length of around 2 centimetres. The smallest specimens are practically impossible to see with the naked eye. The body of the dwarf spider Glyphesis servulus, for example, measures only 1 millimetre. All domestic spiders produce venom. But only a small number are able to pierce human skin. As a rule, the bites are not more dangerous then wasp stings, says Frick, reassuringly.
The biologist finds it impossible to imagine a world without spiders, even if that sounds like paradise for arachnophobes. Without spiders, our lives would be very uncomfortable. Like wolves or eagles, they are high up the food chain. They are amongst the most important predators in the Northern Hemisphere. Collectively, the spiders in Liechtenstein, for example, eat thousands of tons of insects every year. This corresponds to a layer that would be 10 to 20 centimetres deep, Frick estimates. Not a pleasant thought either. Not even for arachnophobes.