I was first introduced to jumping spiders during an undergraduate class in biodiversity with Dr. Wayne Maddison at UBC. Dr. Maddison is the current director of the Beaty Biodiversity Museum at UBC. His lab studies the phylogeny and evolution of jumping spiders.
Now, to be clear, I hate bugs. With a passion.
Jumping spiders are pretty neat (so long as I never have to be face to face with one…)! They are part of the family of spiders called Salticidae, consisting of over 5000 described species. Many more are undescribed. That is, species are thought to exist which have not been formally named and described in the literature.
The number of species in Salticidae make this family an excellent model for phylogenetic studies. Phylogenetics is the study of evolutionary relationships between species using genetic data. Combined with morphological data, phylogenetics helps to unravel the relatedness of different species.
Like many spiders, jumping spiders have acute vision. They are also able to sense vibrations from hairs present on their body. Some groups have evolved elaborate courtship displays which rely on these senses. The example I remember most involved the male spider performing a “tap dance” while frantically waving his front legs in an intricate pattern for the female. Bad dancers are not only rejected, but sometimes killed!
At this point, I thought to include a video clip of a dancing jumping spider but I nearly had a heart attack while looking at spider pictures…