Tuesday, September 20, 2011

ABC Wednesday: Jumping Spider

This is a zebra spider (Salticus scenicus), one of 5000 species of jumping spiders (including the only mainly herbivorous spider). They don't built webs, but will hunt actively for prey, stalking it - a bit like a cat. They can also jump up to 10cm/4", that's about 20 times their own length (they do rely on a silk thread to keep them from falling).
Like all jumping spiders, zebra spiders have excellent vision. They can tell apart different insect species and will not try to catch ants or other insects with a bad taste. If you happen to meet a jumping spider and take a closer look, there's a good chance that it will observe you just as closely. They will turn to follow a finger (or a camera lens) and can even raise their head to look at you. Jumping spiders are completely harmless to humans.
unknown species, photographed in Florence, Italy
Jumping spiders have very elaborate courtship rituals. The males will perform a complex dance for the female and with many species, they will show off their beautiful, iridescent colours (not all of them in the visible range for humans). They also produce sounds, here's a video of that - the sounds are amplified, normally they wouldn't be audible for humans.
Deviant Art has many lovely photos of jumping spiders and here are some more videos of courtship dances.

See what else J stands for with ABC Wednesday

Sources and further reading:
Tree of Life
Dick Walton jumping spider page

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