Zebra Jumping Spider
The jumping spider family contains over 500 described genera and over 5,000 described species, making it the largest family of spiders with about 13% of all species. The Zebra Jumping Spider (Salticus scenicus) is one of the most familiar of the British jumping spiders, and is often found on sunny house walls. They reach a size of just 5mm and can be recognized by their jerky stop – start movements. As the name suggests, this small and attractive spider is black with stripes of shining white hairs. Males can be distinguished from females as they have a set of huge jaws that are used in battles with other males. Jumping spiders do not make webs; instead they actively hunt their prey by creeping up and then jumping on them (they can jump 50 times their length) and disabling them with their jaws. They are equipped with excellent eyesight, and probably have the most developed eyes of an arthropod. Four of the eight eyes are large and forward facing giving it stereoscopic vision; the other eyes are arranged so that the spider can see completely around its own body. If you slowly wave a finger at a Zebra Jumping Spider it is likely to turn so that it has a good view of you. They leave a line of silk behind them in case they should lose their footing. The male Zebra Jumping Spider has a pair of leg-like appendages called pedipalps (or simply ‘palps’) that are used to transfer sperm to females during copulation. During courtship, a male Zebra Jumping Spider has to be very careful when approaching the female, or she may react aggressively or even mistake him for a prey species. He signals to the female with his front legs before mating. Zebra jumping spiders are more likely to flee from humans than attack them, but they can bite – although the venom is not considered medically threatening. This species is widespread and common throughout Ireland.