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Although jumping spiders are rather small (310 mm), they are among the most beautiful and delightful of all arthropods. The late, great naturalist J.H. Fabre, whom we consider the father of our passion for things small, mistakenly overlooked the jumping spider. He wrote of the black-bellied tarantula, the Narbonne lycosa, and the crab spider, but neglected this most congenial spider family (Fabre 1916). The most obvious character of the family Salticidae is a pair of disproportionately large eyes. Because of this, people feel compelled to assign them human behaviours. As their Latin name and common name imply, they are agile jumpers and can reach distances of up to 16 cm.
Salticids are easily distinguished from other spiders by their unique eye arrangement, habitus, general behaviour and mode of prey capture. Their eight eyes are arranged in three rows. The middle two eyes in the front row are the largest, giving jumping spiders acute binocular vision unmatched by other invertebrate visual systems. The carapace of jumping spiders is elevated and, in addition to other parts of their bodies, is often stout and covered in fine hairs or scales. Salticids are generally sexually dimorphic. Males can be remarkably coloured from metallic blues and greens to brilliant crimson. Females, on the other hand, tend to be dull brown or grey. Examples are displayed on Wayne Maddisons Salticidae web page, http://spiders.arizona.edu/nasaltshome.html. One of the most beautiful jumping spiders found in Canada, Habronattus decorus (Blackwall), has bright blue iridescent scales on its cephalothorax and rose-coloured scales on its abdomen. Some salticids are exceptional ant-mimics; they appear to have three body segments and they elevate a pair of legs to simulate insect antennae. Canadian examples of salticid ant-mimics include Peckhamia picata (Hentz), Synageles canadensis Cutler, and S. noxiosus (Hentz).
Jumping spiders are skittish and deftly maneuver to maintain a close watch on pencils, probes, and fingertips. They stalk and pounce on their prey with catlike patience and precision. These spiders do not rely on webs to capture prey, but spin silk for drag lines, egg cases, and retreats. Jumping spiders are diurnal, sun-lovers. On a bright day, they can often be found perched on tree bark, blades of grass, shrubs, and other well-lit places. In cloudy or rainy weather, they withdraw inside silken retreats.
Globally, Salticidae is the most diverse spider family. This is especially evident in the tropics where their diversity is unmatched. Of the 34,000 described spider species, 4,000 to 5,000 are jumping spiders (Coddington and Levi 1991; Bennett 1999). Of the estimated 1,400 spider species in Canada (Dondale 1979; Bennett 1999), 8%, or 110 species, belong to the family Salticidae. Surprisingly, an estimated 20% of Canadas salticid fauna remain undescribed (Dondale 1979) and distribution records are sparse.
Given the interest in biodiversity research in Canada, and the prevalence of spiders in field collections of invertebrates, a comprehensive identification guide to the jumping spiders of Canada is desperately needed.
Female Phidippus sp. (photograph by C.M. Buddle)
We aim to produce an identification guide to the jumping spiders of Canada. In pursuit of this goal, our first objective is to compile an annotated species list. This list will include synonymies, distribution records organized by province and territory, citations to the original and revised species descriptions, and notes regarding the species taxonomic status.
In light of the taxonomic difficulties within the Salticidae, we hope to encourage collaboration with other jumping-spider enthusiasts. Initially we will create a web-based format for the identification guide. This will allow us to update changes, add to the species list, and include new records. Photographs and visual aids will be linked to taxonomic keys. Once North American Salticidae systematics have stabilized, our long-term goal is to publish The Jumping Spiders of Canada in a format similar to Agriculture Canadas Insect and Arachnids of Canada series.
Frontal view of Phidippus sp. (photograph by D.P. Shorthouse)
Our progress can be viewed at http://www.ualberta.ca/~dps1/salticidae.html.
Approximately 110 species are listed on the web page, and this list is growing. British
Columbia has the highest diversity of jumping spiders, followed by Ontario and
Saskatchewan (Table 1). Records from eastern Canada, however, are lacking and the low
number of species from this region likely reflects limited records rather than low
diversity. There are approximately 20 species with records in five or more provinces and
territories (Table 2).
Table 1. Preliminary estimates for the number of jumping spider species (Araneae: Salticidae) found in Canada.
To date, 26 genera have been recorded for Canada. The most species-rich genera include Habronattus (19 species), Pelegrina (11 species), Phidippus (9 species), and Sitticus (9 species). Nine genera are represented by a single species.
We have contacted many arachnologists throughout Canada and the U.S.A. and have been encouraged by their enthusiastic response. However, we would appreciate any additional ideas and suggestions. The success of this project depends on obtaining jumping spiders from across Canada.
The next time you climb a tree, sit on a rock, clean your windowsill, or wander through a sunny meadow, please keep an eye out for jumping spiders. Hopefully, unlike J.H. Fabre, you wont overlook these lively gems.
Table 2. Jumping spider species found in 5 or more provinces or territories in Canada
Bianor aemulus (Gertsch, 1934)
Eris militaris (Hentz, 1845)
Euophrys monadnock Emerton, 1891
Evarcha hoyi (Peckham & Peckham, 1883)
Habrocestum pulex (Hentz, 1846)
Habronattus americanus (Keyserling, 1884)
Habronattus decorus (Blackwall, 1846)
Neon nelli Peckham & Peckham, 1888
Pelegrina flavipedes (Peckham & Peckham, 188
Pelegrina insignis (Banks, 1892)
Pelegrina montana (Emerton, 1891)
Pelegrina proterva (Walckenaer, 1837)
Phidippus borealis Banks, 1895
Phidippus clarus Keyserling, 1885
Phidippus purpuratus Keyserling, 1885
Phidippus whitmani Peckham & Peckham, 1909
Salticus scenicus (Clerck, 1757)
Sitticus finschi (L. Koch, 1879)
Sitticus palustris (Peckham & Peckham, 1883)
Sitticus ranieri (Peckham & Peckham,
Bennett, R.G. 1999. Canadian spider diversity and systematics. Newsletter of the Biological Survey of Canada (Terrestrial Arthropods) 18:16-27.
Coddington, J.A. and H.W. Levi. 1991. Systematics and evolution of spiders (Araneae). Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 22: 565-592.
Dondale, C.D. 1979. Araneae. pp. 247-250 in H.V. Danks (Ed.), Canada and Its Insect Fauna. Memoirs of the Entomological Society of Canada 108. 573 pp.
Fabre, J.H. 1916. The Life of the Spider. A.T. de Mattos (trans.). Dodd, Mead & Company, New York.
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