A Red Jumping Spider from North Zulch, Texas… 1

 This article by Jerry Cates (who is entirely responsible for its textual content) and Keith Stewart (who kindly supplied photos of the spider he found in his shower), was first published on 8 August 2010, and last revised on 9 November 2020. © Bugsinthenews Vol. 11:08(03).

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Cardinal Jumper (Phidippus cardinalis), Keith, North Zulch, TX--08.02.10

A Male Jumping Spider from North Zulch, Texas

Mr. Stewart emailed me the following note and included several photos:

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I have found two different spiders in my shower and both look almost like the Johnson Jumper except both of these have two dark green stripes running longways down the back. I killed the first one but have the second one in a jar at the House, and will get a picture of it and send it to you tomorrow.

I live in North Zulch, Texas, which is about 20 min East of Bryan/College Station.

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I studied Mr. Stewart’s photos carefully, and compared them with those of the many other photos of red-colored jumpers I’d received over the years. The writings of arachnological luminaries such as the Peckhams were consulted, along with those of the scientists who first described each of the species that appeared most similar to the specimen in Mr. Stewart’s images, in an effort to home in on a competent identification.

When that was done, I initially posted that this spider was, in my estimation, a McCook’s jumper. Later, on additional reflection, I revised my guess and identified Mr. Stewart’s spider as a Cardinal jumping spider (one of the synonyms for the McCook’s jumper).

Now I regret to announce that all those identifications were posted in error. Not because they were clearly wrong, mind you, but because they asserted conclusions based on facts not in evidence.

The genus Phidippus is complex. In particular, for those species with reddish or orangish carapaces and/or abdomens, certain of the outward markings commonly used to distinguish between the species have been in dispute. Those disputes have, in some cases, raged for more than a century.

Arachnologists are, if anything, human. As a rule, human nature vigorously seeks firm conclusion to vexing questions. The quest to positively identify a spider under investigation to a particular species tends to make the investigator feel deeply inadequate when the quested goal is denied.

Most of the time, fortunately, reaching a firm i.d. is not that difficult a task. The student’s ego is then rewarded in a fine way. Sometimes. however — as in the case with this specimen — the job is more than can be handled using sparse photographic evidence alone. When that happens, objectivity should lead the worker to accept, and publicly admit, the shortcomings of the effort. This I now humbly do.

The arachnological community presently agrees that Phidippus mccooki is no more than a synonym. Still as David Edwin Hill informed me on 3 November 2020, the spider Mr. Stewart found in his shower in August of 2010 cannot be positively identified as a Cardinal Jumper, either. It may, instead, be a specimen of the species Phidippus pius. 

The jumper with that latter scientific descriptor does not, to my knowledge, presently have a common name. If it did, however, it would most likely be the pius jumping spider. My thanks to Dr. Hill for pointing out this questionable identification.  Obviously, significant changes needed to be made to the narratives of the body of this posting, inasmuch as I had — throughout that body of text — incorrectly attempted to apply a specific epithet to Mr. Stewart’s specimen when such a feat far exceeded the application of the meager evidence at hand.

As for it being P. pius, the jury is still out. Dr. Hill claimed, in his email, that it was, but no doubt he merely meant to say it “might” be, and his kind comment was provided to illumine the point, obliquely, that my conclusions were at best premature. As for his seeming conclusion that Mr. Stewart’s spider was P. pius, it must be said that a number of outward characters do appear to point in that direction. But — to be fair — others point away from it. Is it truly not P. cardinalis? Maybe. Or… maybe not. Other possibilities loom, too. In actuality, without DNA or, at the very least, a microscopic analysis of the specimen’s copulatory organs, I suspect we cannot say. I await Dr. Hill’s further comments, and will post them when he proffers them to me.

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Note that the photographs posted on this page, as with all the photos posted on bugsinthenews.info, can be enlarged for more detailed viewing by placing your cursor over them and left-clicking.

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P. pius, P. Whitmani, P. apacheanus and P. cardinalis all differ from the Johnson jumper (Phidippus johnsoni), in that both males and females of those four species have, instead of the black carapaces of the Johnson jumper, red, reddish, or orangish ones. The synonym to P. cardinalis, McCook’s jumper, was thought to denote a unique species distinguished by having two prominent, dark, longitudinally oriented, lateral stripes (or bands) on the dorsal abdomen, subdivided along their lengths into at least three somewhat distinct sections.

Salticidae: Cardinal jumper (Phidippus cardinalis: Hentz, 1845); BT, West, Texas--31 October 2010

Another Jumping Spider with a red carapace and dorsal abdomen, from West, Texas

Accordingly, the cardinal jumper was thought to differ from McCook’s jumper by, although having these same bands, displaying them in a form that was much subdued by comparison, particularly in the male. In the female the bands were thought to be subdivided by white spots embedded linearly within them, whereas these white spots were absent in the female McCook’s jumper.

The specimen posted here for comparison purposes was photographed near the city of West, Texas (which despite its name [which derives from the surname of the city’s first postmaster], is located in Central Texas, north of Waco) in October of 2010. It provides us with another specimen having a red carapace and dorsal abdomen, but without sufficient evidence to allow us to type it, beyond the genus Phidippus, to species.

Notice that the dorsal abdomen has faint markings where, in the photos taken by Mr. Stewart in North Zulch, Texas, in August of that year, the markings are dark and quite distinct. One might think this would so distinguish the two as to enable the observer to exclaim, with certainty, the species involved. But, no. Not with the jumpers, especially those with reddish … and orangish … carapaces and dorsal abdomens.

Before proceeding further, it would be remiss to be silent about the location (North Zulch, Texas) where the spider that spawned this article was found. The history of that little village began in the late 1840’s–only a few years after Texas declared its independence from Mexico. It was here that a young itinerant merchant named Julias Zulch, who had immigrated to Texas from Kassel, Germany, took a chance and built a modest log house and general store on the trail connecting Booneville and Midway.

The spot, which travelers knew as “willow hole,” had a good spring that produced drinking water throughout the year, and willow trees that gave shade in the hot summertime. It had, for obvious reasons, been used by travelers for years as an overnight campground, and Zulch figured that, what with the faithful spring and shade trees, he’d have a constant flow of paying customers who needed his supplies to continue their sojourns abroad. It is no surprise that Mr. Zulch, who watched his pennies carefully and made sure his wares met the needs of his clients, prospered.

Salticidae: McCook's Jumper (Phidippus mccooki); male, left medial pedipalp; Keith, North Zulch TX--04 Aug 2010

Salticidae: a male jumper (in the genus Phidippus); left medial pedipalp; photographed by Keith Stewart, North Zulch TX–04 August 2010

Cardinal Jumper (Phidippus cardinalis) male, Keith, North Zulch, TX--08.02.2010

Salticidae: a male jumper (in the genus Phidippus), photographed by Keith Stewart, North Zulch, TX–4 August 2010

Notice in the photo at left that Mr. Stewart’s spider has a “Groucho Marx” eyebrow above the anterior eye row. The first leg is fringed with brown or black, but also with a considerable amount of what could be described as white fringe in evidence; though this is characteristic of the cardinal jumper, and varies in sometimes having white or black fringes, it does not by itself provide sufficient evidence to enable us to declare much beyond assigning it to the genus Phidippus.

The posterior median eye (PME) is the small black spot just below and slightly behind this eyebrow.

Pay particular attention now to the pedipalps. They show, in this photo, as having swollen distal extremities (the cymbium or tarsus) with complicated structures on their ventral aspects. That is, on their dorsal (leading) surfaces, they appear as ordinary palpal appendages, but on the ventral (trailing) surface–in the enlarged photo of the lefthand pedipalp–can be seen a darkened protrusion that is separate from, but attached to, the tarsus.

This structure appears to be consistent with the 1883/1909 drawings made by the Peckhams of the P. mccooki male embolus, as presently published by Jerzy Proszynski. Again, however, this is not sufficient to positively identify to species.

Back to Julius Zulch: he bought up the surrounding land with his profits and became a productive cotton grower. Then, in the 1870’s, running short of labor, he advertised for new immigrants from Germany, lending them money for passage to Texas, so they could help with his enterprises.

Many of these immigrants came from the German province of Posen. They took up residence near the village ofwhat was then known as Willow Hole, where they farmed as tenants on Zulch’s land, and saved their pennies until they, too, could purchase land to farm.

Willow Hole was renamed Zulch, in 1906, to honor the man whose gamble in 1850 had led to its creation. But–as luck would have it–in that same year the Houston and Texas Central Railroad directed its new Navasota-Mexia branch line so that it bypassed the city, which bade none too well for the latter’s future. Worse, in the very next year, the Trinity and Brazos Valley Railway built its Iola-Normangee spur along the new Navasota-Mexia right of way, and by then the inhabitants of Zulch could see the writing on the wall.

Salticidae: McCook's Jumper (Phidippus mccooki); male, facial; Keith, North Zulch TX--04 Aug 2010

Salticidae: a jumper (in the genus Phidippus); male, facial; photographed by Keith Stewart, North Zulch TX–4 August 2010

Cardinal Jumper (Phidippus cardinalis), Keith, North Zulch, TX--08.02.10

Salticidae: a jumper (in the genus Phidippus), photographed by Keith Stewart, North Zulch, TX–4 August 2010

Take a good look at the face of this spider. The arrangement of the eyes is clearly consistent with the genus Phidippus. Eyebrow tufts are present, too, though subdued in comparison with, say, the bold jumper, Phidippus audax.

Note also that the hairs on the front leg are no brighter a shade of white than those on the rest of the body. One could call them “brown” instead of “white”, even without considering the fact that the image has been processed to bring out subtle contrasts. As with other photos posted here, the originals were rather dark. The lightest hairs seen here are much darker in the unprocessed image. Brown, indeed, is the right descriptor.

Back to the residents of Zulch, Texas, in the year 1907: Seeing the way things were moving, they accordingly moved north two miles, to where the rail lines were. It was the right thing to do, of course. Zulch declined as a result, but North Zulch, which was the name most used for the clutch of homes that sprang up “astraddle the tracks” at the new location, increased.

And the rest is history. Save the fact that not much is left of Zulch today, except for a historical marker located 1/2 mile west on Farm Road 39. North Zulch, for its part, soared to a population of 1,000 by 1930, then began a steady decline to 100 in the 1960’s. By the 1990’s, only two of the original 40 businesses remained. Not much has changed since then…

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— Questions? Corrections? Comments? BUG ME RIGHT NOW! E-mail jerry.cates@bugsinthenews.info.

One comment on “A Red Jumping Spider from North Zulch, Texas…

  1. Reply Louanne W Roger Jul 19,2014 12:12 pm

    I took a picture of one of these. Exactly like the 2nd Spider on this page . I live in Skidmore, Texas about 11 miles S of Beeville, Tx off 181 N
    It was on my Shed after a nice rain. I’d never seen one before anywhere.

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