A small spider with a fashionable zebra striped print, what’s not to love about that? Therefore, this spider sunday it is all about one of the most beloved spiders of the northern hemisphere: the zebra spider (Salticus scenicus)!
Zebra spiders belong to the jumping spiders (Salticidae) family. This family is known for having the most spectacular and cutest members. Although cute, they are calculated hunters. They don’t make webs for catching prey, but actively roam about looking for delicious snacks. When on the hunt they rely heavily on their eyesight. Zebra spiders have excellent optic skills, with 4 large eyes at the front of their heads and another 4 at the sides, each with their own capabilities. They have binocular vision and can distinguish between shapes and colours. In addition, their eyes work like a telephoto lens. And as if that’s not enough, zebra spiders are the only spiders that can shift their retinas so that they can focus on everything around them without having to move their eyes. When they spotted a prey, they orient themselves towards the prey. Then, they will produce a silk thread that they use as a safety cord. When ready, they will quickly jump and surprise their prey. If the jump is unsuccessful, the spiders can use the thread to return. Zebra spiders also use threads for extreme sports like abseiling or flying.
Zebra spiders are able to notice humans observing them (like yours truly 😉 ). They will raise their heads (which gives them an almost begging look) and change their behaviour. This behaviour is the reason for their Latin name; Salticus scenicus means ‘jumping actor’ or ‘theatrical jumper’.
There are small differences between males and females. Most notably, males have large chelicerae (jaws), which they not only use for hunting, but also for attracting females. The larger the jaws, the sexier the male becomes. The males also have to be great dancers to attract a female. The courtship dance involves waving with front legs, moving up and down and shuffling to the side. When eggs are laid, the mother will cover them in silk and guard the egg sacs. After hatching, the spiderlings will stay with their mother until their second moult.
Here is an excellent video of a jumping spider (not our particular zebra spider) performing a courtship dance:
Source last picture: https://pixabay.com/en/spider-macro-zebra-spider-insect-564685/