Zebra spider

Posted: Wednesday 24 April 2013
by Richard Jones

Although, yes, technically it is a spider, I’m almost positive that nobody could really be scared of the zebra spider.

Zebra spider

Although, yes, technically it is a spider, I’m almost positive that nobody could really be scared of the zebra spider, Salticus scenicus. It lacks all those sinister characteristics that can cause unease among some people — it isn’t black and hairy, it doesn’t have long legs, it doesn’t scuttle, it doesn’t lurk, and it doesn’t come out at night to creep across the living room carpet.

Instead, it is bright and breezy, it has short shapely legs, it hops, jumps and skips, it struts carefully across a fence or a wall, and it does it in bright sunshine. It’s all very reassuring. And not only is it pretty beyond compare in the arachnid world, it is fascinating to boot.

The first thing to notice are the two huge headlight eyes at the front. They are rather intelligent-looking and hardly invertebrate-like at all — nothing like the beady little orbs of the house spider. It is these two major eyes that give the spider its visual acuity, enabling it to size up prey, align itself, then pounce many times its own body length to land on its hapless victim. According to the textbooks, it can control an internal lens to focus more clearly, an ability lacking in non-jumping spiders. And it can also move the light-sensitive retina at the back of each eye; in effect it can change the direction of its gaze without moving its body — a neat trick for any stalker. According to some reports I’ve read, you should be able to see this, as it makes the eyes change colour slightly when the internal eye elements move. I peered close, but this is a subtle observation beyond my luck this day.

Watching one climb up the metal fire escape stairs on Sunday, I was, however, able to see the infinitesimally thin silk safety line that it trailed as it stalked across the crumbling paintwork. The reasoning goes that if it jumps and misses, it can abseil to safety using the tough silk strand. The wire can only be a fiftieth of a millimetre in diameter, but it was easy to see, glinting in the sun. I’ve never seen a zebra spider miss though.

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Bobdob 26/04/2013 at 09:20

Who is the highly intelligent designer that formed this creature ?

flowermaster9 27/04/2013 at 11:39

The same one who created you and all we see from and on this planet. As said a wonderful design has to have a designer. Pity is a lot is being spoilt by man. The higher intelligence?

BobTheGardener 27/04/2013 at 12:50

Clearly Charles Darwin

Steve the Gardening Vet 27/04/2013 at 13:14

Why do people have to haul religion onto a gardening forum..?

gail collins 18/05/2013 at 10:45

my daughter is scared of this spider because they jump lol xx

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