— This article by Jerry Cates and Julia E., first published on 5 April 2010, was last revised on 24 April 2016. © Bugsinthenews Vol. 11:04(03).
Hi, I just discovered your website as I was searching to find a name for a spider photo I took today. I’m new to the East Texas area and last fall I stumbled across some very interesting spiders. Through photography I found the unusual designs of these organisms fascinating. So, as soon as the weather got warmer, I was out looking again.
This one was taken today in a woody area near a small lake. He was so tiny! I wouldn’t have seen him if he hadn’t been moving, and when it stood still, I couldn’t find him except through the camera lens.
Thanks for your help!
After thanking her for the excellent photo (later she sent others, of an orb weaver, which are just as good as these), and apologizing for not getting back to her more quickly, I explained that this was a male jumping spider in the Salticidae family. According to Ubick, et al. (2005) this family is comprised–in North America–of 63 genera and 315 species.
The salticids are distinctive, with a huge pair of anterior median eyes (AME) in the midst of the face. Except for the translucent green Magnolia Green Jumper (Lyssomanes viridis), all North American jumpers have AME that are flanked, laterally, by much smaller–though still large by most standards–anterior lateral eyes (ALE), as shown in Julia’s specimen.
In L. viridis, the ALE are positioned above, and behind, the AME, and are trailed–further back on the head–by the posterior median eyes (PME) and posterior lateral eyes (PLE), so that the eyes form a line, on each side of the head, aligned with the long axis of the body.
This spider, which is neither green nor in possession of the distinctive eye pattern of L. viridis, is from another genus.
Unfortunately, without seeing more of its body, which of the remaining 62 genera it hails from is not that easy to determine.
I could, of course, recite a litany of jumpers whose colorations and other distinctive features eliminate them from the list… and promptly lose your attention entirely.
Julia later sent a second photo that showed a slightly different view of the spider (and which is posted here at left).
This new photograph does not tell us much more, though is is still a valuable addition to what we already know, and provides a tantalizing, subtle hint that the markings of the dorsal head, once revealed, will be remarkable.
Notice, for example, the coloration bordering the eye positioned furthest back on the head. And the tiny spots on the ventral abdomen, just barely visible above the limb on which the spider reposes.
I told Julia it would help to see the spider’s dorsal body, and maybe even a view of the lateral profile. With that information, it might even be possible to identify this jumper to a specific genus or species.
Still, even lacking that, we are not entirely stopped in our tracks by a lack of information about the rest of this spider’s body. The frontal view affords a good look at the palps (the diminutive, fuzzy, leg-like structures below, and on each side of, the face), which are noticeably enlarged at their distal ends (click on the top photo, above, for an enlarged view).
The enlarged, ornate palps suggest strongly that this is a male, inasmuch as female salticids–as is the case for the majority of females in most spider genre–have rather plain-looking palpae. The males use their palps as inseminators during mating, and wave them about, with much fanfare, during courtship.
And there’s yet more in this photo, than immediately meets the eye, too.
Observe the whitish detritus on the underside of the leaf, to the left of our jumping spider. These are not leaf pimples, but aphids.
Yesterday morning, while hunting Easter eggs with my grandkids (I’m not too old for that sport) in Round Rock, I noticed that aphids were already attacking the new growth of several botanicals (a photo of those aphids is provided, above). These insects, which are quite destructive, are too small to serve as food for this spider.
However, their prodigious sucking of plant juices leads to an overabundance of sweet, anal secretions, which attracts acrobat ants, in the genus Crematogaster. The latter are so infatuated with aphids and their honey-dew, in fact, that they literally farm the aphids, picking them up in their jaws and moving them from leaf to leaf, to insure a good production of sweet liquid for their diets.
And acrobat ants are quite large enough to make an excellent meal for this spider. I suspect that is why he is hanging out here, awaiting the arrival of acrobat ant farmers, so he can make a meal of one or two of them, and thereby partake of the aphid’s honey-dew indirectly. Look closely at the context photo, and notice the thin, horizontal webbing below the spider; those strands are most likely tethers that the spider used, not long ago, when seizing prey on this botanical. Methinks it a good probability the prey involved was several acrobat ants…
I told Julia to consider returning to this location, to see if she could find this spider again. With the abundance of aphids–and its addicted colony of acrobat ants–here, it is likely the spider has not wandered too far afield. Perhaps, before too long, we shall see more photos of this fellow.