Jumping Spiders

Habits and Traits of the World's Expansive Spider Species

Jumping spider.
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When you look at a jumping spider, it will look right back at you with large, forward-facing eyes. They can be found throughout the world in the Americas, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia. Salticidae is the largest family of spiders, with over 5,000 species described worldwide. While more prevalent in the tropics, jumping spiders are abundant nearly everywhere in their range.

Jumping Spider Traits

Jumping spiders are small and scrappy carnivores. They are often fuzzy and measure less than a half inch in body length. Salticids can run, climb, and (as the common name suggests) jump. Prior to jumping, the spider attaches a silk thread to the surface beneath it, so it can climb quickly back to its perch if needed.

Salticids, like most other spiders, have eight eyes. Their unique eye arrangement makes it easy to differentiate jumping spiders from other species. A jumping spider has four eyes on its face, with an enormous pair in the center, giving it an almost alien appearance. The remaining, smaller eyes are located on the dorsal surface of the cephalothorax (a structure combining the fused head and thorax).

The Himalayan jumping spider (Euophrys omnisuperstes) lives at high elevations in the Himalayan mountains. They feed on insects that are carried up the mountain on the wind from lower elevations. The species name, omnisuperstes, means "highest of all," so it's not that surprising that specimens of this remarkable species have been found on Mount Everest at elevations of 22,000 feet.

Fast facts: Jumping Spider Classification

  • Kingdom: Animalia
    Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Arachnida
    Order: Araneae
    Family: Salticidae

Diet and Life Cycle

Jumping spiders hunt and feed on small insects. All are carnivorous, but a few species also eat pollen and nectar.

Female jumping spiders build a silk case around their eggs and often stand guard over them until they hatch. (You've probably seen these spiders with their eggs in corners of exterior windows or door frames.) Young jumping spiders emerge from the egg sac looking like miniature versions of their parents. They molt and grow into adulthood.

Special Behaviors and Defenses

As the common name suggests, a jumping spider can jump quite far, achieving distances more than 50 times its body length. If you examine their legs, however, you'll notice that they are not strong or muscular in appearance. Rather than relying on muscle strength to leap, salticids are able to quickly increase the blood pressure in their legs, which causes the legs to extend and propel their bodies through the air.

The size and shape of jumping spiders' eyes give afford them excellent vision. Salticids use their enhanced sight to their advantage as hunters, employing their high-resolution vision to locate potential prey. Some jumping spiders mimic other insects such as ants. Others are able to camouflage themselves to blend into their surroundings, helping them sneak up on prey. Insects and spiders with heightened visual acuity often engage in elaborate courtship dances to attract mates, and jumping spiders are no exception to this rule.

Sources

  • Borror and DeLong's Introduction to the Study of Insects, 7th edition, by Charles A. Triplehorn and Norman F. Johnson.
  • The Insects: An Outline of Entomology, 3rd edition, by P. J. Gullan and P. S. Cranston. 
  • Family Salticidae - Jumping Spiders, Bugguide.net. Accessed online February 29, 2016.
  • Salticidae, Tree of Life Web Project, Wayne Maddison. Accessed online February 29, 2016.
  • Tales of the Himalaya: Adventures of a Naturalist, by Lawrence W. Swan.