Sunday, November 6, 2016

Johnson Jumping Spiders Dance, Sing and Mimic

A Johnson jumping spider enjoys the late afternoon sun shining on its mushroom cap doorstep
 as it crunches on a earwig.  
The Johnson jumping spider got the most votes and will be featured on the 2016 Dipper Ranch walnut label.  This particular spider must be a male because its entire abdomen is covered in red felt whereas the female of this species has a black band down the middle.

Male jumping spiders dance and sing to get the attraction of a female jumping spider.  If she likes the performance, they mate. If she doesn't like it, she might eat him.

Repositioning the earwig prey.   
See this great video of their routine on KQED Science. I've seen jumping spiders hopping around each other on rocks before but I didn't realize this tiny performance was so serious.

In this photo, you can see the iridescent teal color of the spider's chelicerae ("hands").

After 20 minutes of sucking out the juices of the earwig, the spider drops it.
The black and red hued jumping spiders may be mimics of the similarly colored velvet ant. By looking vaguely like the vicious-biting velvet ant (also called the cow killer), Johnson jumping spiders may trick larger spiders and predators to avoid them.

Female velvet ant - another tiny creature of bold defenses.   
Velvet ants are actually solitary wasps with the females being wingless and brightly colored, and the males being winged and not always as colorful. The females scurry around on the ground looking for the larvae of other wasps or ground-dwelling bees to lay their eggs on.

Hear Paul Shamble of Harvard University talk more about the acute eyesight and hearing of jumping spiders and their myrmecomorphy skills (ant mimicry) on Science Friday here, or check out this article on other reasons spiders mimic ants such as to sneak up on ants to attack them for a meal.

It's a bug eat bug world out there.

PS: randomtruth wins the bag of 2016 Dipper Ranch walnuts based on the True Random Number generator. I'm not making this stuff up.

Johnson jumping spider, Phidippus johnsoni
Velvet ant, Dasymutilla species


  1. Johnson's red jumper is a worthy winner! I learnt recently that, in the UK, we have a similarly-coloured Ladybird spider, Eresus sandaliatus which was thought extinct but a colony was rediscovered in 1980.

    randomtruth's win does have a wonderful and pleasing symmetry!

  2. In 2012, a Johnson jumping spider named Nefertiti went to the International Space Station and learned to adapt its jumping technique to catch fruit flies in zero gravity. When this spidernaut returned to Earth, she spent the rest of her short spider life at the Smithsonian.

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  4. Been a little intimidated by the velvet ant but the mimicry thing interesting; will be taking a closer look now.


Comments let me know to keep on sharing what's happening at the Dipper Ranch. You can either use an existing account or choose "Anonymous" by clicking the arrow after the "Comment As" box. Your comment will appear after a delay to allow screening of spam.