Cute Jumper

I always like jumping spiders. They’re just so darn cute.

~Cheryl Hayashi

As I neared the end of my hike along the Haw River last week, I noticed a slight movement on a tree trunk along the trail. I stopped and looked, and, at first, saw nothing. So, I placed my hand on the trunk, and something moved again. It was gray-brown and blended very well with the tree bark.

Tan Jumper 1

Tan Jumping Spider blends well with tree bark (click photos to enlarge)

It was a Tan Jumping Spider, Platycryptus undatus. I recognized it from research I did on another fall spider post from a couple of years ago. The scientific name is a good descriptor for this common species of jumping spider. Platy means “broad and flat” referring to the flattened body profile which allows this species to edge into crevices in tree bark or other tight spaces. Cryptus means “hidden” and refers to their ability to blend in with many natural backgrounds, The specific name undatus means “wavy” and refers to the wavy or scalloped pattern on top of the abdomen, which helps them hide on mottled backgrounds like tree bark.

Jumping spider along Haw

After looking at my camera screen, I could see this spider was eating another, much smaller, spider

This species, like many jumping spiders, is relatively easy to observe. In fact, they oftentimes seem almost curious about us, and will approach or jump onto you or your camera as you try to get close for a photo. This little female (about 1/2 inch in length) was quite cooperative and I was able to herd her into a position for a few images. I finally realized that one reason she might have been so still is that she was busy feeding on a smaller spider.

Jumping spider along Haw 3

Their large eyes, and tendency to orient toward us when we get close, may explain why many people think jumping spiders are so cute

Their large eyes help make jumping spiders one of the most appealing groups of spiders. I had a tough time getting a good angle on this one because it was so focused on its food. I finally eased the camera close and shot a short video clip as she manipulated the remains of her prey.

She finally dropped the spider carcass and started to move about. I tried corralling her with one had while getting the camera close with the other, but she wasn’t interested.

Jumping spider along Haw 2

The last image taken before she jumped on my camera and then dropped into the leaf litter below

The last thing I saw on the camera screen was the spider raising up, those large eyes looking up at me. She then leaped onto the top of the camera and quickly dropped down into the leaf litter at the base of the tree. Ironically, the next day, I was out back photographing another spider and as I went into the basement door, there was a slight movement on the window – another Tan Jumping Spider staring up at me. It must be their season.

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