Jumping spiders are members of the spider family Salticidae, which contains around 5,000 species of spider, roughly 7% of the total number of spider species in the world. This large spider family is incredibly diverse, with representatives found all over the world. As the common name “jumping spider” would suggest, jumping spiders are most notable for their jumping ability. Some spiders are capable of jumping as much as 40 times their body length, relying on a very complex internal structure.
The bulk of jumping spider species are found in tropical forests, but these spiders also appear in temperate forests, deserts, shrubby lowlands, and mountains. In fact, one jumping spider species was collected from the slopes of Mount Everest, demonstrating the incredible range of this hardy spider family.
Two features can be used to distinguish jumping spiders. The first is the jumping, with jumping spiders anchoring themselves with silk before leaping so that they can crawl back up and try again, if need be. The second is the incredibly good eyesight of jumping spiders. These spiders have eight eyes, including four set forward on the face, using these eyes for refined stereoscopic vision which allows them to detect prey. Many jumping spiders also have flattened faces to accommodate their rows of eyes.
Many jumping spiders are very curious, interacting with organisms many times their size. Their excellent vision has also given rise to elaborate visual courtship rituals including dances and displays. Some species are capable of gliding, achieving a mode of transit almost like flight, and others have evolved to mimic the shape of their prey, with several jumping spider species looking a lot like ants. Many are brightly colored, with visual markings designed to appeal or warn other jumping spiders.
Jumping spiders generally build egg sacs after mating, with some females guarding their egg sacs until they hatch. Some species have also been known to build sheltering structures from their silk in hostile environments.
While many jumping spiders carry venom which they use to assault their prey, this venom is not generally harmful to large organisms. Most feed on insects, with some supplementing their diets with pollen and nectar. Jumping spiders in the garden or home can actually be quite beneficial, as the spiders will consume insect pests. Because these spiders do not build webs, they also make far less of a mess than other beneficial arachnids.