Saturday, April 28, 2018

Itsy Bitsy

I don't know much about the natural world. That's because the natural world is really big, with lots of little things in it. I know more than most people, but probably less than a decent cross-section of my friends. You know how you'll hear someone "wrote the book" on something? That's not always metaphorical. I have friends who know so much about stuff that they can write authoritative books about it, in spite of which they tend not to be all that well-off, because they did not have the foresight to get into the more lucrative fields of pharmaceutical price-gouging or pension stealing, and failed to consider net worth when they were selecting their parents.

But not knowing much means life is a lot of fun for me. Because there are so many things I can still learn. Every day. All it takes is a little noticing.

For instance, I was noticing as I put on my gardening gloves that there was a little patch of spider silk, maybe the size of your thumbnail, right in the palm where there had been none just the day before. And there was somebody in it. Excellent! I thought. Clever little dude already caught some dinner. But then the dinner walked out. And I had to reassess.

I got my nose just about on it to ascertain it was a spider, and then I took a gorgeous portrait of it, and had to write about it. You can't look at a little dude like this without wanting to know more about him. I usually assume most spiders I see are females because I have this notion the males are small and hiding out, trying to figure out how to get their rocks off without getting eaten, which makes them subject to existential dread and harder to spot. But I think this one is a male. And if he isn't, one of my smart friends will jump in and tell me--just watch.

It's a jumping spider! Also known as a Bold or Daring jumping spider. Lots of folks object to spiders jumping, but in truth, a lot of those people take exception to spiders even when they're sitting quietly pondering stuff and not moving at all. I'm sympathetic, to a degree: I don't believe snakes should climb trees or swim, but they do, so we have to just roll with it. And jumping spiders are so small they're unlikely to be able to wrap their tiny faces around our fat asses anyway. Mine was a quarter-inch long, and don't mess with me about that, because I am a quilter and I know my quarter-inches. But they're the largest family of spiders there is.

The little thumbnail-sized patch of silk in my gardening glove is not a trap for prey. They construct them just to hole up in, of an evening. Or winter over in. Or stash some eggs in. They're shelters. Next time it's a little nippy out and you forgot your sweater, imagine that: you could have pumped a little pup tent out of your own butt.

So they're not trappers, they're hunters. That's where the jumping comes in. And they don't have musculature per se but a nice set of hydraulics in their legs and plenty of eyes for spotting things with. Plus, they attach an anchor line of silk before they jump so they can zoodle themselves back to where they started.

The famous Peacock spiders are jumping spiders, but even without the fancy colors, regular jumping spiders like my friend have an awesome courtship display. Legs shoot out straight, quiver, vibrate, bump and bounce: he's drumming the whole time. According to Wikipedia, he does this because he doesn't want to be considered food. I call baloney. I distinctly remember being an adolescent: the boys were drumming all the time. They couldn't stop drumming. It was either that, or, you know.



Anyway the same source suggests that the female spider signifies her willingness to entertain by sitting passively in a crouching position. I'm not sure why crouching is considered to be passive, in a jumping spider. But hey. It's his call.

42 comments:

  1. OMG! Thanks for the video! I didn't realize that they had a whole mating dance and everything! I LOVE spiders, but particularly jumpers. I think it's cute the way, when they notice me looking at them, they raise their heads and actually look back. They have a safe haven here: we let them be, even going so far as to clean around them. There are some corners that we never clean because they seem to be prime real estate for spiders. Glad to see someone else with a laissez-faire attitude toward them.

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    1. You're in swell company here. Murrmurrs attracts many spider fans, for some reason. Or we collectively intimidate the non-fans...

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  2. I didn't know spiders could be that small unless they were babies.

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    1. They are easily overlooked but worth looking for.

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  3. Yup, jumping spiders are the bee's knees and then some (well, another two). Maybe April is the month for blogging about them, as I had some spidery inspiration recently, too.

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  4. With uniforms and in groups, I think that they would make good entertainment at very small football halftime shows.

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  5. Is the audio with that video the actual sound the guy spider was making? Wow.

    I've always liked jumping spiders.

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    1. Yeah, apparently! Someone has some mighty good audio equipment.

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  6. That may attract female spiders, but it does nothing for me!!

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    1. It's not meant to. You need to bring me a beer to have the same effect.

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  7. That's quite amazing. And was reminiscent of someone trying (and failing) to get their motorbike running smoothly . . .

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    1. We live on a busy street in a very small town. While watching and listening to your little drummer boy, I’m hearing something very similar from the street outside my window...a larger scale, two wheel Saturday night mating ritual, but less expert. So I had to check. Not a crouching chick on sight.

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    2. Jeez--I guess that IS meant to be a mating ritual. Gaah.

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  8. I am so with you here. I am simultanteously appalled at how little I know, and grateful that I can learn. (I wish I retained more of it though.) And I adore the jumping spider dance. They are discovering more peacock spiders all the time. So our ignorance (and joy in learning) is shared by the 'experts' as well.

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    1. Don't get me started about the retention thing. What?

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  9. Curiosity combined with attention to detail are two of the very best traits. I look for them in people I meet and they often become the best of friends....:)

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  10. Anything I really never wanted to know, I know I can get it from this blog. Thanks Murr!

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    1. Wait just a minute. You totally wanted to know all this.

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  11. I “do” just about anything as a zoo docent and raptor rehabber and education specialist but it’s so hard for me to do spiders. I try but still, they creep me out. That being said, this video is like great pornography it’s so stimulating.

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    1. Admit it: you watched it more than once, you dirty girl.

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    2. The pop leg was something but the early foreleg variation tipped me over the edge. I even watched it in the car today.

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  13. You'd only find it if you knew how to get in! https://www.facebook.com/dinahmow1

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    1. They are SPLENDID! Let's make it easier for people to see, right here.

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  14. Wonderful! In the sense that the little dickenses are awe-inspiring. Great music video, followed by Mississippi John Hurt, a favorite artist. Thanks, Murr!

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    1. Does make you wonder how much else we miss. Nature movies are a whole lot better now than they were in Marlon Perkins' time.

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  15. And of course you know about Lucas the cute spider, right?

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    1. Oh good lord. Jumping spiders done by Margaret Keane.

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  16. Jumpers are among my favourite spiders. So curious! And smart, too. I've watched one take a good look at a fruit fly some distance away, then walk to the far side of a leaf, where she was couldn't possibly see the fly, but was a lot closer, then suddenly leap out and grab that invisible fly.
    I think your "guy" is a female. Males have big (BIG) boxing gloves on the tips of their pedipalps. I couldn't see any on yours.
    The gloves are specialized organs to carry sperm, ready to impregnate a female in the second or two before she decides he'd make a good lunch.

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    1. My pal Eric Eaton, who, um, wrote the book on the subject, says "Pretty sure your spider is at least one or two molts from adulthood, so tough to say which gender." Sure would be tough for me in any case!

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  17. Replies
    1. Sounds like you know a bunch too. I love my commenters.

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  18. You know, I wondered about that water spout for years. Why, if the spider was inside, did the rain wash it out? Wasn't it protected? I was probably in my teens before I realized that eaves had downspouts, and water could indeed wash out a spider. I guess that's what came from living in a Cracker house with wide eaves that dripped wherever they wanted to: cultural deprivation.

    Anyway, we had Orb Spiders so big they caught warblers in their webs and had to cut them loose before they totally wrecked the place. Really pissed off both parties, far as I could tell.

    During WW II my dad raised Black Widows so the Air Corps could use the webs for cross-hairs in bomb sights. Apparently being named Webb had affected his mind.

    I'll stop now.

    Hi Murr!

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    1. Hi Bill! Don't ever stop! And are you freaking kidding me about the warblers??

      It's funny the things we think when we're kids. Like, I thought Humpty Dumpty was a potato and I didn't understand why he busted into a million pieces. And I thought people had to marry other people who had the same last name.

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    2. Kid you not (I think). They could have been wrens. I didn't know the difference at that age, but I seem to remember brighter colors. Wish I could go back there with what I know now. For example, I recall my father (a self-taught naturalist) showing me a really big woodpecker that her was really excited about. That would have been in the late 1940's, when we still had a lot of old growth cypress and other swampish trees around the place, so who knows? Have I seen one, or not? I like to think maybe...

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  19. Oh yeah. Used to play with Jumping Spiders when we were kids. Such beautiful eyes!

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