• achiasmatic ;
  • chromosome pairing ;
  • deactivation ;
  • duplication ;
  • heterochromatinization ;
  • NOR ;
  • polyploidy

Spider diversity is partitioned into three primary clades, namely Mesothelae, Mygalomorphae, and Araneomorphae. Mygalomorph cytogenetics is largely unknown. Our study revealed a remarkable karyotype diversity of mygalomorphs. Unlike araneomorphs, they show no general trend towards a decrease of 2n, as the chromosome number was reduced in some lineages and increased in others. A biarmed karyotype is a symplesiomorphy of mygalomorphs and araneomorphs. Male meiosis of some mygalomorphs is achiasmatic, or includes the diffuse stage. The sex chromosome system X1X20, which is supposedly ancestral in spiders, is uncommon in mygalomorphs. Many mygalomorphs exhibit more than two (and up to 13) X chromosomes in males. The evolution of X chromosomes proceeded via the duplication of chromosomes, fissions, X–X, and X-autosome fusions. Spiders also exhibit a homomorphic sex chromosome pair. In the germline of mygalomorph males these chromosomes are often deactivated; their deactivation and pairing is initiated already at spermatogonia. Remarkably, pairing of sex chromosomes in mygalomorph females is also initiated at gonial cells. Some mygalomorphs have two sex chromosome pairs. The second pair presumably arose in early-diverging mygalomorphs, probably via genome duplication. The unique behaviour of spider sex chromosomes in the germline may promote meiotic pairing of homologous sex chromosomes and structural differentiation of their duplicates, as well as the establishment of polyploid genomes. © 2013 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2013, 109, 377–408.