Jumping spiders win hearts

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This jumping spider, named “Doris” and kept by Anna Teixeira, is scientifically called a hybrid Phidippus Regius/Phidippus Otiosus. Anza Valley Outlook/Anna Teixeira photo

Jumping spiders with their hunting techniques and eight-eyed head tilts are winning hearts on social media thanks to macro photography.

Macro photography is extreme close-up photography, usually of very small subjects like spiders, in which the size of the subject in the photograph is greater than life-size, displaying their fuzziness, colors and poses.

Even kept as pets, the tiny eight-eyed hunters have their dedicated fans.

“Spiders especially are such culturally shunned creatures and treated as pests, but their importance in the ecosystem is very high aside from the fact that they are basically fuzzy little hungry puppies with eight legs,” Anna Teixeira, the keeper of one, said.

A jumping spider poses for a photo shoot. Anza Valley Outlook/Marianna Loo photo

Southern California boasts several jumping spider species, all members of the family Salticidae. As of 2019, this family contained over 600 genera and over 6,000 species, making it the largest family of spiders at 13% of all species.

The Johnson Jumping Spider, Phidippus johnsoni, is common in the Anza Valley. These predators actively hunt instead of building a web and expecting prey to become entrapped. They run, stopping frequently to scan their surroundings for a juicy fly, ant or another spider.

Jumping spiders build a nest of a slightly flattened tube of silk, surrounded by guy-lines that attach it to the twigs or leaves of a bush or stone. Egg sacs are laid in these “hammocks.”

These tiny arachnids are famous for their courtship displays as the males try to impress the females. Not all jumping spider species do this display, but many do.

The male may begin his display by holding his carapace, or hard upper body, very high, shifting his abdomen to one side and raising his first pair of legs. He dances toward the female in a zigzag manner. He flicks his forelegs up and down, holding them wide apart at first and bringing them closer together as he nears the female. If duly impressed, the female will allow him to mate.

These spiders are expert hunters, stalking prey such as flies and leaf hoppers. They do not initiate hunting behavior toward still prey and will interrupt ongoing hunting behavior when the prey ceases to move.

When pursuing a target, the spider moves rapidly, slowing down as it comes near the prey. When close, it presses its body close to the ground and draws the legs in toward the body, becoming motionless in this crouched position. It then attaches a safety thread to the ground and jumps at the prey. When attacking large insects, it may take a curved course in order to jump on it from behind.

To learn more about the jumping spiders of the world, visit Jumping Spiders (Salticidae) at http://www.facebook.com/groups/salticidae.

Diane Sieker can be reached by email at dsieker@reedermedia.com.