Jumping Spider Natural History

Spiders are one of the most diverse classes of arthropods and have developed a wide range of tactics for survival and hunting. Jumping spiders, as the name implies, are known for their small stature and impressive jumping abilities. Jumping spiders are the single largest family (Salticidae) of spiders, with over 6,000 species across 600 genera.

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What Do Jumping Spiders Look Like?

Most jumping spiders are small and measure between 0.3 and 1 inch long. Spiders in Salticidae are easy to distinguish thanks to their unique thorax shape and bright colors. Many species have a metallic, iridescent shine on their bodies in blues, greens, reds, yellows, and more. Like all spiders, jumping spiders have eight compound eyes on the front of their heads—three secondary pairs and one primary pair that move around.

Jumping spiders are known for their excellent vision. Despite their tiny size, they have better visual resolution than an elephant. Unlike many spiders, jumping spiders have muscles on their eyeballs that they can control individually, and they have a wide range of color vision.

Jumping spiders also have incredible depth perception. Each eye has 4 layers of retinae, each of which filters a certain color. Jumping spiders judge this difference in color penetration and use it to detect depth, a method not seen in any other known group of spiders.

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Jumping Spider Behavior

Jumping spiders, as a rule, are predators and use their powerful eyesight and jumping abilities to hunt. Unlike most species of spiders, jumping spiders do not create webs to catch food. They instead hunt during the day. Similar to grasshoppers, jumping spiders can change fluid pressure in their legs, which is how they propel themselves through the air. Their sharp eyesight allows them to accurately gauge depth so they can pull off incredible leaps.

Hunting strategies vary considerably between species. Some will stalk prey and lie in wait before striking, while others will aggressively pounce from higher locations. Jumping spiders exhibit very complex adaptive behavior when hunting and can take detours from their main path to reach prey. Typical fare for jumping spiders includes ants, flies, moths, beetles, and other spiders. They are also known to eat pollen and nectar when other food is not available.

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Like many insects and arthropods, jumping spiders engage in a complex courtship ritual that involves movement and bodily poses. Courtship rituals also frequently involve vibrations and other auditory signals. Male spiders with brighter color patterns are more successful in acquiring mates, but this advantage comes with a trade-off as they are also more likely to be spotted by predators such as birds and lizards.

Jumping Spider Interesting Facts

  • The oldest known jumping spider is a 54 million-year-old specimen encased in amber.
  • Jumping spiders can leap over 2 feet—nearly 20 times their own body length.
  • Several insects have evolved to mimic jumping spider patterns to avoid predation from them.
  • Jumping spiders live on every continent except Antarctica.
  • In addition to their excellent eyesight, jumping spiders have great hearing.