Spiders in the family Salticidae are commonly known as "jumping spiders", for the impressive springing movements often exhibited when they are alarmed. This is the largest family of spiders, including more than 5,000 known species. They are common on all continents except Antatctica, occurring in a range of microhabitats from beneath leaf litter up into the forest canopy. Tropical regions have especially high species diversity (in contrast, only around 300 species, for example, are known from North America north of Mexico).
Although most jumping spiders are easily recognized as salticids, the appearance of these highly visually oriented spiders is nevertheless extremely diverse in both body form and color pattern. Many salticids are apparent mimics of ants or beetles; others may be camouflaged to blend in against a background of bark, grass, or stones. Still other salticids are brightly colored and patterned and males may use these decorations in complex courtship displays. Some salticids (such as many Phiddipus and many, if not all, Habronattus) have stridulatory mechanisms for communication, which are often used in courtship. In many genera, males may engage in ritualized agonistic behavior that may sometimes resemble courtship.
Maternal care of eggs seems to be the rule among salticids, with females closely associated with both eggs and newly emerged spiderlings until the spiderlings molt to the first free-living instar and disperse. Most salticids lay their eggs in a distinct sac, but females of some species (e.g., Lyssomanes) lay only a thin sheet of silk over the eggs.
Predatory behavior has been described as surprisingly reminiscent of that of cats, with some species showing remarkable abilities to locate prey and develop efficient prey captive techniques while minimizing risk of injury to themselves. Richmond and Jackson (1992) provide a review of salticid behavior.
(Richman et al. 2005 and references therein)
An excellent resource for anyone interested in accessing more information about salticids is the web page of Dr. Wayne Maddison at the University of British Columbia.
- Richman, D.B., G.B. Edwards, and B. Cutler. 2005. Salticidae. Pp. 205-216 in D. Ubick, P. Paquin, P.E. Cushing, and V. Roth (eds.). Spiders of North America: an Identification Manual. American Arachnological Society.
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