Spiders have developed extremely sophisticated methods of catching their prey ranging from complex web designs to mimicking insects and being able to move amongst them. For example if you watch an ant trail very carefully you may find an ant with two more legs than it should have! The ant mimicking spiders raise their foremost pair of legs in pretence of having antennae.
Webs are ingeniously designed for trapping insects. A tropical tent web spider constructs a web with "knock down" strands above and a "catch net" below. The "catch net" is a non-sticky modified orb web into which the insects fall once they collide with the "knock down" strands. This collision also serves to alert the spider which rushes down to the "catch net" to seize the prey.
Spiders taste their prey using their legs, or more correctly with the specialised hollow hairs which are found mostly on the lower parts of their legs. If an unpalatable insect such as a stinkbug has been trapped, the spider will reject it.
Checklist of spiders
A variety of mammals have been recorded at the Garden, although many are nocturnal and are generally only seen early in the morning or late in the afternoon.
Rock hyraxes or dassies can however often be spotted from the Geological Trail path, lounging on the boulders at the base of the cliff. Dassies are one of the main prey animals of the Black Eagles.
Scrub hares are nocturnal but are sometimes disturbed from their resting places in the shade during the day. They have well developed hind-legs which enable them to bound away from danger at great speed.
The Slender mongoose with the characteristic black tip to its tail is occasionally seen darting into the bushclumps near the Woodpecker Walk. In spite of their diminutive size they are capable of killing large snakes. Rodents, scorpions and insects also form part of their diet.
The Vlei rat creates runways and tunnels in the vegetation and may be seen grazing at the edges of lawns in the late afternoon. They can be recognised by their blunt faces and relatively short tails. Spotted eagle owls are one of their main predators.
Mountain reedbuck usually remain hidden during the day, but can sometimes be seen from a distance in amongst the rocks along the ridge. They are small, reddish with white underparts. The males have sharply forward pointing horns.
Checklist of mammals
Apps, P. (Ed.) 1996. Smither's Mammals of Southern Africa. Southern
Book Publishers. Halfway House.
Branch, B. 1988. Field Guide to the Snakes and other Reptiles of
Southern Africa. Struik. Cape Town.
Broadley, D.G. 1990. Fitzsimons' Snakes of Southern Africa.
Jonathan Ball and Ad. Jonker Publishers. Parklands.
Carruthers. V.C. (Ed.) 1982. The Sandton Field Book. The Sandton Nature
Conservation Society. Rivonia.
Carruthers. V.C. (Ed.) 1997. The Wildlife of Southern Africa. Southern
Book Publishers. Halfway House.
Filmer, M.R. 1997. Southern African Spiders. Struik. Cape Town.
Leroy, A and Leroy, J. 2000. Spiderwatch in Southern Africa. Struik.
Marais, J. 1992. A Complete Guide to the Snakes of Southern Africa.
Southern Book Publishers. Halfway House.
Mills, G. and Hes, L. 1997. The Complete Book of Southern African
Mammals. Struik. Cape Town.
Passmore, N.I. and Carruthers, V.C. 1995. South African Frogs.
Joint publishers: Southern Book Publishers. Halfway House. Witwatersrand University Press. Johannesburg.
Skinner, J.D. and Smithers, R.H.N. 1990. The Mammals of the Southern
African Subregion. University of Pretoria. Pretoria.
The Witwatersrand National Botanical Garden would like to thank John Leroy for the use of his photographic slides for this website. Also Astri Leroy for her time and assistance with the Arachnid section.
*Please note that John Leroy holds absolute copyright to his photographic slides. He may be contacted at email address: