Known to be curious, friendly creatures, jumping spiders are perhaps the closest thing to a kitten in the spider world. They are fuzzy and have a flat face that sports a pair of huge, front facing eyes, giving them a mammalian appearance. Even spider haters may find the jumping spider’s adorable face difficult to resist.
As the name implies, jumping spiders are great at…well, jumping! They can leap up to 50 times their own height. They will use a line of silk as a tether for safety, much like a mountain climber uses a rope. Amazingly, jumping spiders do not even have muscles! They use the hydraulic movement of their limbs, relying on changes in blood pressure to provide the momentum needed for their jumps. They will stop from time to time in order to readjust their blood pressure in preparation for more jumping.
Hydraulics is the process through which power is generated, controlled, and transmitted through the use of pressurized liquids. Picture two liquid-filled cylinders topped with a piston and connected by a pipe. If pressure is applied to one piston by pushing down on it, the force is transferred through the liquid to the other piston, making it rise.
The jumping spider is quite the acrobat and can jump backwards to escape from a dangerous object. With their huge, front facing eyes they focus on their prey with determination. The jumping spider is highly active and scurries around with jerky movements (which also rely on hydraulic pressure changes). They do not spin webs and instead rely on tracking and hunting techniques. With their giant front eyes they can see prey from quite a distance, as opposed to orbweavers, which have very poor eyesight. They sneak up on the prey or wait until it scurries by and quickly pounces out of the blue. Quickly, they bite, injecting venom into the victim. They eat a variety of insects and even eat other spiders. Surprisingly, they also care for pollen and nectar.
The jumping spider makes up 13% of all the spiders in the world. With 5000 different species of jumping spider around, they are a very interesting group of spiders to study. It is also easy to keep them as pets, though they require quite a bit of exercise!