Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Salticidae, Adorable Predators

     For the past couple of years, the main focus of my taxonomy research has been the family Salticidae. Their common name is the Jumping Spiders, and they come in a range of sizes. They're relatively small, especially compared to my tarantulas, but they've got big personality.

     Maybe it's not good "Science" to refer to my spiders as "adorable," but I can't think of a better word for the entire Salticidae family. They're said to have the best vision of any of the spiders, and it's not too hard to believe, if you look at those big front eyes.


     Now onto the fun, science stuff!

     Salticidae is the largest family of spiders, with something like 4400 described species. In the United States, we have a little over 315 known species, with many more, I'm sure, yet to be described. There are, last time I checked, 63 genera of Salticids just in the United States.

     Jumping Spiders come in all shapes and colors. Some look like little bits of wood, others are eerily accurate mimics of ants. Many in the genus Phidippus have bright, metallic, green chelicera.

     Jumping spiders are very intelligent little spiders. They're always fun to watch and observe.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

A Year Of Spiders

        2011 was a great year for observing spiders. I saw a lot of different species this year. I'd like to tell you about some of the more interesting ones that I found.
       Here, you'll see a picture of a jumping spider, family Salticidae, This particular spider is an adult female Phiddipus putnami. I found her sitting on a railing while walking home from class one Friday afternoon. I scooped her up in my hands and hurried home to the dorms. She eventually laid an egg sac, which hatched and, as of this writing, is doing well.

      One of my favorite finds of 2011 was Brownie. Brownie is a large female Brown Recluse, Loxosceles reclusa. She's the largest Brown Recluse that I've ever seen. We actually found her crawling on a gas can in the shed behind the house. I caught her and decided to keep her as a pet and display spider. She's been a good one.

      Throughout the summer and fall, I found a bunch of wolf spiders, Lycosidae. These large, sleek spiders have always been one of my favorite families. The one pictured was found sitting near the door to the dorms one day after I had finished with my classes. I kept her for a long time, and she eventually passed away in my care.

      Another cool spider that I found was the Golden Silk Spider, Nephilla clavipes. I'd never seen one alive in person before BugFest of 2011. She'd been building her web over a trail that I was walking down, and so I coaxed her onto my hand. I ended up incorporating her into my presentation that night and the next day. She crawled onto my face during one of these talks, which got a great reaction from the crowd.

    2011 was a great year for finding all kinds of interesting spiders. I have a feeling, though, that 2012 will be even better. Here's to a great New Year!