Most of us spare little love for spiders. With their strange, spindly walks across our walls and our ceilings, our responses to spiders typically range from fear to hatred to hesitant neutrality. But there’s one type of spider that’s more tolerated than the rest — and that’s the jumping spider.
The jumping spiders, or the Salticidae, are a family of over 600 separate genera and over 6,000 separate species of spider. The spiders themselves are curious and inquisitive, and they are favored among arachnid admirers for their cleverness and their adorable, almost friendly appearance. All the more amazing, these tiny critters heed human commands and hop to incredible heights.
They’re the most charming spider, and they’re certainly the cutest. They’re also the most diverse, with the family featuring a stunning 13 percent of all spider species. So, here’s what you’re hopping to hear about jumping spiders.
What Do Jumping Spiders Look Like?
The spiders in the Salticidae family are among the most identifiable spiders in the world. Smattered in short, sensitive bristles that allow the spiders to sense and navigate their surroundings, the Salticidae tend to be small, sturdy, and stubbier than the typical spider. Making them all the more special are their shimmering orbs, of which four sit at the front of their faces.
But that isn’t to say that all jumping spiders are the same in terms of their appearance. Though they tend to share a basic size and shape, the Salticidae come in an assortment of patterns and a spectrum of shades.
Zebra Jumping Spider (Salticus scenicus)
Size: 5 to 9 millimeters
Native Habitat: Eurasia
The zebra jumping spider, Salticus scenicus, is an abundant species across Eurasia and North America, native to Eurasia. Black with black and white bristles, the species’ segmented body (including its thorax and its abdomen) is adorned in bold stripes. Measuring around 5 to 9 millimeters in size, the species spends its time inside cracks and crevices or out in the open, sitting on the surface of stones or tree trunks, or lounging on walls or windowsills.
Tan Jumping Spider (Platycryptus undatus)
Size: 8 to 13 millimeters
Native Habitat: North and Central America
Adorned with a cream chevron pattern across their abdomens, tan jumping spiders come in an assortment of colors, including black, brown, gray, and — as their name suggests — tan. Their coloration serves as a form of camouflage, making the spiders tough to spot on textured surfaces, such as walls, fences, and tree trunks. Known to arachnologists as Platycryptus undatus, they are around 8 to 13 millimeters in length and live in North and Central America.
Bold Jumping Spider (Phidippus audax)
Size: 6 to 15 millimeters
Native Habitat: North America
Bold jumping spiders are moderately sized spiders, around 6 to 15 millimeters, native to the temperate terrains of North America. Though they tend to be black, with a white blob on their back and white banding on their body, their mouthparts are typically a bright, iridescent blue. The word “bold” was attached to the species back in the 1840s, when an arachnologist described the spider, now named Phidippus audax, as “very bold, often jumping on the hand which threatens it.”
Regal Jumping Spider (Phidippus regius)
Size: 6 to 22 millimeters
Native Habitat: North America
Though male Phidippus regius spiders are almost always black with white blotches, female P. regius spiders, also known as regal jumping spiders, are all sorts of shades, from white to cream to bright and burnt orange to brown. In males, mouthparts are an iridescent turquoise, while in females, mouthparts shimmer and shine in almost any shade imaginable. Occupying open spaces in North America, the biggest males are around 18 millimeters, while the biggest females are around 22 millimeters.
Peacock Jumping Spider (Maratus volans)
Size: 5 millimeters
Native Habitat: Australia
Among the most stunning of the Salticidae, Maratus volans is one of around 100 or so species of “peacock spider,” so called because of the bright courtship colors of the males. When male M. volans meet female M. volans, they flutter the white-fringed flaps on their abdomens, splashed with black, blue, red, and yellow. They also wave pairs of their white-fringed feet to attract further female attention. Both males and females of the species are small, maxing out at around 5 millimeters, in their native turf of Australia.
How Big Do Jumping Spiders Get?
From these five species alone, it’s apparent that there’s substantial size variation among the Salticidae. In fact, the typical size of a jumping spider spans from the 1-millimeter bodies of the smallest Neon jumpers to the 25-millimeter bodies of the biggest Hyllus jumpers. Still, all jumping spiders are small when compared to the world’s most massive spiders, with all species of Salticidae being less than an inch in size.
Read More: Why Are We Afraid of Bugs?
How Many Eyes Do Jumping Spiders Have?
All jumping spiders have four pairs of eyes — eight eyes in total — including one principal pair that sits at the front of their faces, and three secondary pairs that surround the first.
What’s So Special About Jumping Spiders’ Vision?
The principal pair is substantial and forward-facing and provides a sharp, narrow-angle view of a spider’s surroundings in color, while the three secondary pairs — the small, side-facing pairs that surround the primary pair — provide a blurry, wide-angle view in black-and-white. Taken together, they allow jumping spiders to see almost anything in their vicinity.
Thanks to this array, the Salticidae’s sight is stronger than that of other spider families. And studies suggest that jumping spiders also see at the sharpest spatial resolution of all animals, in relation to their small size, that is. More impressive still is the fact that their primary pairs of eyes sense all the shades of the rainbow, as well as some ultraviolet shades that we, as people, aren’t able to see.
What’s So Special About Jumping Spiders’ Other Senses?
In addition to their superior sense of sight, jumping spiders also use noise to navigate their surroundings. Tuning in to the sensory bristles that swathe their bodies, jumping spiders are able to sense sound waves from distances as far as 10 feet away.
What Do Jumping Spiders Eat?
Most jumping spiders are voracious, opportunistic predators, consuming any creatures that they manage to catch. Counting on their strong senses to capture their prey, they tend to survive on a diet of tiny insects and other small spiders.
Though jumping spiders are typically carnivorous, some species include nectar in their meals, and one species, Bagheera kiplingi, primarily consumes plants. And that’s not the extent of strange eating in the Salticidae family. Studies show that some jumping spiders, including P. regius spiders, pursue their potential predators, consuming tiny frogs and lizards if provided the chance.
How Do Jumping Spiders Hunt?
Though all jumping spiders spin silk, almost all jumping spider species forgo weaving webs to trap and incapacitate their food. Instead, they tend to follow an aggressive, stalk-and-pounce approach, singling out and springing after their prey.
How Far Do Jumping Spiders Jump During Hunting?
Though the length of their leaps varies from species to species, all Salticidae spiders are astoundingly agile. With only one jump, some jumping spider species are able to travel a distance almost 40 times their body length.
Surprisingly, these stunning jumps are not powered by strength, but by the flow of fluid in a jumping spider’s body. When a jumping spider prepares to pounce, it alters the flow of its internal fluids, directing the fluids towards its feet. This forces the spider’s legs to stretch and shoot outwards, launching the spider in whatever direction it wants.
How Do Jumping Spiders Stabilize Their Jumps?
Stabilizing a jumping spider's jump is a single-strand tether of silk that the spider attaches to the stationary surface from which it leaps, before it launches into the air. This tether balances the spider’s body and serves as a sort of break, allowing the spider to slow down and descend, steady and set to attack. It also acts as a safety against falls, allowing the spider to scramble up the tether and try a failed jump from the start.
Are Jumping Spiders Venomous?
Once a jumping spider springs onto its target, it bites and injects the target’s body with venom, paralyzing the prey and allowing the spider to start snacking. The spiders do this without securing or immobilizing the target with their silk, meaning that their venom must be super strong and super speedy, stunning the prey almost immediately.
Do Jumping Spiders Bite?
Though their venom is incapacitating for all sorts of small insects and animals, jumping spider venom is typically not harmful to humans.
Though it is possible for a person to be bitten by a trapped jumping spider — particularly if that jumping spider feels threatened and is unable to flee — such bites are relatively rare and relatively mild, only occasionally resulting in moderate or severe reactions. Instead, the overwhelming majority of jumping spider bites are not noticeable, or result in small skin irritations, around the size of mosquito bites.
As opposed to attacking, most jumping spiders attempt to run in response to a threat. In fact, beyond pouncing on their prey, jumping spiders also use their acrobatic abilities to avoid threats and to navigate their terrain.
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Are Jumping Spiders Smart?
From their hunting strategies to their interactions with humans, jumping spiders seem to possess some sort of spider smarts. Take the top strategists of the Salticidae family, the Portia spiders of Asia, Africa, and Australia. Ambushing other spiders, the 21 species of Portia adapt their attacks to specific spider species.
When stalking web-weaving spiders, for instance, they shake the strands of their webs, mimicking the movement of a stuck insect or a sudden breeze. This tricks their targets into coming closer or conceals their approach as they close in on prey. Their strategy is so sophisticated that some arachnologists assert the spiders show signs of planning and problem solving.
Adding to their supposed smartness is their interest in interacting with people. Often owned as pets, some P. regius spiders seek out their owners, curious and eager to explore. In 2018, scientists trained an adult P. regius spider to jump into the air without any stimulation — whether a bit of food or burst of wind — to induce the jumps, indicating the species’ trainability. In time, the spider became familiar with the task, jumping for the scientists again and again.
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Where Do Jumping Spiders Live?
With stunning smarts and a worldwide spread, jumping spiders traipse through six of seven continents, with the only omission being Antarctica. Incredibly adaptable, they appear in all sorts of spaces — from tropical and temperate forests to deserts — traveling on tree trunks and fences, prowling in piles of foliage and pebbles, and walking across walls and floors.
How Long Do Jumping Spiders Live?
For all their spider smarts and adaptability, jumping spiders aren't long-lived. They tend to live anywhere from a few months to a few years. However long they live, however, their little lives are fantastic and full, fueled by their curiosity, their cleverness, and their spectacular skills.