10 Wild and Crazy Facts About Jumping Spiders

A closeup of a jumping spider showing the hairs on its head and legs and blue stripe under its eyes

karthik photography / Getty Images

Jumping spiders are the largest group of spiders on Earth, with over 6,200 species. They primarily inhabit tropical forests, but are found in a variety of habitats all over the world, with the exception of the North and South poles. While named for their impressive jumping ability, they also have remarkable vision, thanks to their two pairs of eyes.

From unusual courtship dances to their ability to be trained to jump on command, discover the most fascinating facts about the jumping spider.

1. Jumping Spiders Belong to a Big Family

Jumping spiders are members of the Salticidae family, and it's not an overstatement to say that a reunion among members of that family would need a pretty big space. There are 646 recognized extant and fossilized genera and more than 6,200 described species of jumping spider. This makes jumping spiders the largest family of spiders in the world. Beyond their numbers, jumping spiders come in a variety of colors, shapes, and sizes.

2. They Are Everywhere

Well, almost everywhere. With the exception of extreme polar regions, jumping spiders are found in just about every habitat in the world. So the only way to get away from jumping spiders is to go to the Arctic or to Antarctica. Jumping spiders mostly reside in tropical areas, but they will hang out in chillier climates as well. In 1975, for example, a researcher from the British Museum of Natural History found jumping spiders on the slopes of Mount Everest.

3. They Don't Have Super Legs

It'd be easy to think that these tiny creatures have insanely muscular legs given their ability to leap up to 50 times their own body length. But this is not the case. Jumping spiders rely on segmented legs and blood flow to make their crazy jumps. When they're ready to jump, the spiders cause an extreme change in hemolymph pressure (the spider equivalent of blood pressure) by contracting the muscles in the upper region of their bodies. This forces blood to their legs, and causes their legs to extend rapidly. This quick and sudden extension of their legs is what propels them in the direction they're aiming.

4. They Aren't Reckless Acrobats

Just because they make daredevil leaps doesn't mean jumping spiders have a death wish. Jumping spiders spin a quick line of silk that they use as a dragline. The tension in the silk line allows the spiders to adjust their body for a smooth landing. It also provides direction and allows the spiders to stabilize their landing in addition to acting like a sort of safety net if they need to stop mid-jump.

5. They Don't Use Webs to Hunt

green jumping spider sitting on leaf with mosquito prey
Ramlan Jalil / EyeEm / Getty Images

Since they can easily jump and catch their prey, they have no need to use their webs for hunting. When jumping spiders find a target, they extend their legs and launch after their meal, which is typically small insects. Once they have cornered their prey, they just add a bit of venom.

One species, the Bagheera kiplingi, eats plant matter, while Evarcha culicivora eats nectar. Some jumping spiders, however, go for more dangerous game by turning the tables on would-be predators. The Phidippus regius, a jumping spider found in the Southeastern United States, has been known to attack and eat small frogs and lizards. While they are a danger to all sorts of plants, insects, and small animals, and some larger varieties can pack a mean bite, they don’t produce enough venom to be harmful to humans.

6. They Can Be Trained to Jump on Command

Researchers at the University of Manchester trained a regal jumping spider to jump on command to better understand the species' jumping abilities. They filmed the spider, nicknamed Kim, and her jumping techniques. For close range jumps, as an example, Kim favored faster, lower trajectory jumps. This uses more energy, but results in shorter flight times, upping the odds of catching a target. With these insights, researchers hope they can improve the jumping skills of tiny robots.

7. They Have Amazing Eyesight

A close up view of a jumping spider's four eyes
Cornel Constantin / Shutterstock

The eyes of jumping spiders have a decidedly odd arrangement: Two smaller eyes bracket two large eyes that rest in the center of their rectangular heads. But it’s their four oversized eyes that give them impeccable eyesight. The smaller set of eyes provide a wide angle view and a sense of motion, while the larger, primary eyes in the center of the spider's head provide a massive amount of detail in color and the best spatial acuity of any animal of similar body size. As an added bonus, the spiders' retinas can swivel on their own, allowing the spider to look around without moving its head.

8. They Hear Very Well

Even though they don’t possess ears or ear drums, jumping spiders have great hearing. Sensory hairs along their bodies take in the vibration of sound waves, an action that sends signals to the spiders' brains. Researchers studying the spiders’ eyes discovered this accidentally in 2016. They were demonstrating that vibrations sent the spiders’ neurons firing, even vibrations that originated as far as 10 feet away, leading them to conclude that the spiders could feel the sound waves.

9. The Males Sing and Dance to Woo Mates

While their various spider senses are good for hunting and avoiding danger, those same senses are also helpful for mating. Male spiders dance their way into a potential mate's heart, wriggling and writhing in special ways. Additionally, each male spider "sings" its own special song, sending buzzes, scrapes, clicks, and taps to a nearby female. Those vibrations travel along the ground and into the female's legs and are picked up by her sensory hairs. If the female is unimpressed, she will sometimes devour the male.

10. Peacock Spiders Take Mating to Another Level

Male peacock spider with his colorful fan extended in a mating dance
Martin Anderson / 500px / Getty Images

The peacock spider (Maratus volans), a species of jumping spider found in Australia, brings something extra special to the mating dance. Male peacock spiders begin by trying to attract females by waving their third set of legs. When the male spots a likely candidate, he commences with the vibration rituals. Then, to make sure he has the female’s attention, the male peacock spider will flash his colorful peacock-like fan extensions. This entire process can take the male spider up to an hour, depending on the female’s level of interest.

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