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What Time is it in Nature: Jumping Spiders

August 10, 2012

Jumping Spider, Phidippus putnami

There are several jumping spider species at Prairie Ridge, including the one featured here, Phidippus putnami.  Jumping spiders are personable, interactive spiders and can be found in the prairie, around the classroom, in the garden—almost anywhere!

Jumping spiders

What is a Jumping Spider?  Jumping spiders are spiders in the family Salticidae.  There is a lot of variation in appearance, size, and behaviors in the nearly 5000 species worldwide, but jumping spiders are characterized by having one very large set of eyes in the front and three smaller eyes arranged in a line on either side. Males and females often have different appearances and sometimes have wild tufts of hair poking off the tops of their heads, bright colors, and bizarre structures.  You can see tufts and bright colors in the Phidippus putnami female (left) and male (right) above!

Jumping Spider Vision.  Because they have such large eyes in the front, jumping spiders are capable of seeing in color.  Their superb eyesight is also responsible for their responsiveness to people: Jumping spiders will watch you and interact with you in a way that few other spiders will.  Photographing jumping spiders can be very rewarding as they are aggressive toward one another and the reflection in the camera lens can sometimes provoke interesting responses.

Jumping Spider Mating Dances.  Female jumping spiders will eat the males if they approach too quickly, so the males do elaborate mating dances to let the females know they are interested in mating.  These include leg kicks, little shuffling dances, spins, and other movements.  Some jumping spiders have truly spectacular displays!  The Peacock Jumping Spiders in Australia have dances that are particularly well worth watching.

Come on out to Prairie Ridge to look for jumping spiders!  You may find Phidippus putnami while you’re here—or something even more amazing.

What Time is it in Nature is a weekly feature highlighting the current plants, animals, and other wildlife at the Musuem’s public outdoor facility, Prairie Ridge Ecostation.  Find out more about the natural happenings at Prairie Ridge at our What Time is it in Nature Archive!

(Left photo by Chris Goforth.  Right photo of male Phidippus putnami by Thomas Shahan, used under the Creative Commons license.)

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