Jumping spiders – cute, fuzzy, and friendly

Sitticus fasciger Jumping Spider
Creative Commons License photo credit: Opo Terser

A high school student recently contacted the Butterfly Center for some help and advice with a little experiment she was doing for one of her classes. She was investigating whether there was any correlation between size (body length) of jumping spiders and the distance they could jump.

Although she was only able to find four jumping spiders (all in the genus Phidippus), luckily they were of different sizes and when tested did indeed show a strong correlation between body length and distance jumped. Even more interesting was that it was not a linear relationship, but the larger the spider, the farther it could jump relative to its body size. In other words, the smallest of the four spiders tested (1.5.cm) jumped on average 6.3 times its body length, while the largest one (2.3 cm) jumped on average nearly 11 times its body length. (Note: these were all puny distances when compared with the literature on jumping spiders, where distances of 20 to 70 times the body length are cited.)

After her experiment was finished, the student brought three of the jumping spiders to us as she wasn’t prepared to keep them for the long term.  Since the species she had obtained (Phidippus regius, the Regal Jumping Spider) is not native to our area, we didn’t want to release them, so we have them as “pets” for the remainder of their lives.  Unfortunately they are too small to make good display animals – unfortunately, because they are among the most interesting and congenial of all spiders. 

Jumping Spider 2
Creative Commons License photo credit: Stryker W@SP

Jumping spiders are in the family Salticidae, the largest spider family in the world, with close to 5000 species known.  Many are tropical, but salticids can be found in almost any habitat.  They are different from the generic orb-weaving spiders that most people conjure up when they hear “spider.”  Jumping spiders are small to medium-sized, furry, often colorful spiders that do not build webs, but do build a small silken shelter in which they hide when not out hunting.  In fact, as spiders go these guys are incredibly cute! 

They are active during the day, and seem almost curious or even friendly.  If you move your hand towards one, it usually will not run away but rather turns towards you, watching you, and backs up slowly or sometimes even jumps towards your hand.  The cats of the spider world, these little fellows stealthily stalk their prey until it’s within their jumping distance, then pounce upon it with incredible accuracy.  They seldom miss.  But if they do, they don’t fall far; before each leap they fasten a silken lifeline to the surface, which they can crawl back up.

Adult Male Habronattus coecatus Jumping Spider Cleaning his Claws
Creative Commons License photo credit: Opo Terser

Unlike orb-weavers, which are all but blind and use touch as their main sense, jumping spiders have large, prominent eyes (eight of them!) and very good eyesight.  (To see a model of a jumping spider’s eight eyes and a simulation of how they see compared to human sight, visit the Entomology Hall at the Cockrell Butterfly Center.  You’ll also find a 4’ long model of a Bold Jumping Spider (Phidippus audax) in the spiders and other non-insect arthropods section of the hall.)

A jumping spider’s excellent eyesight is not only important in finding and catching prey.  Many species are quite colorful, and color, movement, and perhaps even sound (apparently some males can make drumming noises) are all important aspects of their courtship displays.

Adult Male Phidippus audax Jumping Spider
Creative Commons License photo credit: Opo Terser

I kept a Bold Jumping Spider (Phidippus audax) as a pet several years ago, and getting these new ones reminded me of how much I like these little arachnids. My pet was strikingly patterned in black and white, with iridescent blue-green chelicerae (jaw-like appendages). I fed him moths and flies and he got to be about ¾ of an inch long before I set him free…

There are several websites dedicated to jumping spiders, for example:

http://salticidae.org/jsotw.html

http://www.tolweb.org/tree?group=Salticidae

http://kozmicdreams.com/spiders.htm

 or just do a Google Image search on “jumping spiders.”

Adult Female Phidippus Mystaceus
Creative Commons License photo credit: Opo Terser

Take a moment to check out a couple of these sites to see photographs of these endearing and interesting creatures and to learn more about them.  And next time you notice one, stop and say hello!  They are quite harmless (except to the insects they eat) and are full of personality!






 

4 thoughts on “Jumping spiders – cute, fuzzy, and friendly

  1. I am enjoying watching one of these extraordinary spiders move about my living room as I am typing. When I opened my vertical blinds this morning, he was hidden behind one blind, while resting on the other. He didn’t seem to mind being exposed, he sat for a bit and then made his way up with no attempt to hide after being made aware that he was being watched. These are some of the smartest spiders that you will ever find. They rarely ever bite people, even if you carefully handle them. They are just as curious about you as you are of them. They will actually pivot their heads up to look at you. It’s an incredible experience to interact with one. It will have no problem introducing itself physically by jumping onto your hand if you allow it to. It’s no cause for alarm, the tiny fuzzy creature is not stalking you, he is just checking you out. There is no reason to kill it, catch it in a glass and let it go outside, they love the sunlight…! Enjoy the experience…!

  2. i have a rose haired brazillian tarantula and found the phidippus audax to resemble tarantulas so i caught one and kept it as a pet. they are very fun to watch eat. love the blog

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