My obsession with jumping spiders (or Salticidae as they are properly known) started during my undergraduate honours project when I spent several months carefully photographing (sadly deceased) specimens from twenty nine species in order to study their body shapes. (For some idea of the amazing variation in body shapes amongst the Salticidae check out this video by Dr. Wayne Maddison, and then check out everything else he’s ever done, it’s totally worth it.) As most jumping spiders are small (the largest just push 2cm in length) it’s not until you get them under a microscope you realise quite how beautiful they are. Many of the species in my study were covered in flecks of gold and silver. They also have giant forward-facing eyes which have made them hugely popular with wildlife photographers (as a quick Google image search will reveal).
My enthusiasm for jumping spiders only grew as I became more interested in sexual behaviour. As the now-famous video of peacock spiders shows, male jumping spiders often perform complex courtship displays. One of my long-term career goals is to study sexual conflict in these spiders and how that may have shaped these elaborate behaviours; I recently decided that a good first step on my way to this would be to actually keep and breed one of the commercially available species. Thus two weeks ago I became the proud owner of a breeding trio of Plexippus petersi courtesy of Exopet (who also supplied some of our mantids). I named them after cultivars of kiwi fruit (don’t ask why) so the girls are rather appropriately named Fuzzy and Golden and the male is Baby. All three are happily settled in and feeding well of the endless supply of drosophila from the genetics labs. I’ve even see Baby displaying to the females (I’m hoping to get a decent video up next week).
In the meantime here are some of the best photos of Baby I’ve managed to get.