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Name that originally referred to a species of southern European spider (Lycosa tarentula) but now refers to more than 175 spider species (family Lycosidae) found in North America, Europe, and north of the Arctic Circle. The body of L. tarentula, the largest species, is about 1 in. (2.5 cm) long. Most species have a long, broad, hairy brown body; stout, long legs; and strong, prominent jaws. Wolf spiders chase and pounce upon their prey, hunting mostly at night. Most species build a silk-lined, tubular nest in the ground, which they dig with their heavy front legs. A few species spin webs. The bite of L. tarentula produces no ill effects in humans.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on wolf spider, visit Britannica.com.