When the moon hits your eyes like eight big pizza pies, that’s amore!! Even non arachno-philes have to admit that there is something loveable about jumping spiders (Family Salticidae). And with over 5,000 described species, the largest of any spider family, there’s a lot to love!
First off, there’s those big beady eyes. Now I fully realize that as humans we are hard-wired to perceive large eyes as “cute”, and that just like my cats, who I’m certain would eat me if they were 40 pounds heavier, jumping spiders are very efficient predators. And like cats, jumping spiders stalk their prey, tracking them expertly with their excellent vision and pouncing at close range.
Unlike crickets and grasshoppers, jumping spiders do not use large muscular legs to jump, but instead accomplish their spectacular feats by contracting leg muscles and forcing body fluids into them. This causes the legs to extend so rapidly that they are able to propel themselves 10-40 times their body length!
Within the Salticidae family, the genus Myrmarachne, or ant-mimicking spiders, has got to be one of the most intriguing. They have elongated bodies and hold their front pair of legs forward like antennae. The result is a pretty spot on impression of an ant! While some of these species actually prey on the ants they are mimicking, it appears that most use the disguise as way to live among, and gain protection from, their ant companions.
And finally, David Attenborough hold onto your khakis, because this species of Salticid from Australia (Maratus volans), rivals even the paradise birds in its elaborate mating display. Commonly known as the Peacock Spider, the males of this species are equisitely colored and perform one of the most ridiculous mating dances I have ever seen. Take a look!