Sunday, 12 February 2012
This tiny (3 mm) jumping spider was patrolling narrow-leaf ginger fronds in search of prey.
Jumping spiders (family Salticidae) are the cutest arachnids. Not that they have a lot of competition. Arachnids are fascinating, spectacular, perhaps a bit scary, but few of them deserve the adjective 'cute'. With their big puppy dog anterior median eyes, salticids are the sort of spiders that you might want to tickle under the chin. (Having said that, net-casting spiders also have big eyes, but are not exactly winsome. Arachnophobes, you might like to skip that link.)
Salticids have exceptional vision. The ability to discriminate colour varies between species, but it is thought that all salticids can detect ultraviolet light (as can many insects and some birds).
Jumping spiders also engage in complex courtship behaviour. This short video by Wayne Maddison tells the whole story. It's worth watching through to the end.
Jumping spiders are difficult to identify. For non-specialists, that is, although I wouldn't be at all surprised if salticid experts sometimes throw up their hands and let the odd curse word slip out before packing it in for the day and heading to the nearest bar, where they draw pictures of spider parts in the spilled beer on the table tops and vow to work on golden orb-weavers. I don't know. I am not a salticid expert. Still, the absence of the slightest clue has never stopped me from doing anything before. A quick scan of the internet for a match for the gold spider has pointed me in the direction of the subfamily Simaethinea. If any arachnologists are reading this, please let me know if I am on the right track.
You can see more photographs of Australian jumping spiders on Ed Nieuwenhuys' Salticidae page.