Daring Jumping Spider
I don’t like mushrooms as a food source. As a biological organism I find them fascinating but I’m repulsed by fungal fruit as a topping, a salad ingredient or a flavoring in an otherwise tempting soup. I was dared once to try a roasted Portobello mushroom sandwich and I jumped at the challenge. I enjoyed it.
I’m not fond of spiders either (this story does not end with me eating an 8-legged arthropod). It’s just that they make my skin crawl when they tiptoe across a tightrope of webbing or descend upon prey and wrap them up to digest later. But like the cathartic Portobello experience I came across a beautiful and enchanting spider while hiking through a saw palmetto flatwoods in Bradenton, FL which changed they way I think. At least about this spider.
The quarter-sized, black-bodied, hairy-legged spider had conspicuous iridescent, green chelicerae and 4 large eyes that followed me as I moved in closer for a photo. The chelicerae are the mouth parts used to grasp and draw in food. The four large, well-developed eyes accompany four smaller ones and suggest they have excellent vision for tracking prey.
As I continued to photograph the audacious arachnid it bounded over and through tufts of grass towards my lens, ascending as high as it could like an 8-legged King Kong climbing the Empire State Building.
It wouldn’t be until later that the species would be identified as a Daring Jumping Spider (Phidippus audux) and had I known I might not have been so bold as to get as close.
The day stalking predator uses excellent vision and incredible pouncing power to track down and subdue prey. They can control the balance of fluid in their legs similar to hydraulic systems, essentially allowing them to spring forward several times their body length. It would be like me crouching down, releasing the pressure in my legs and leaping the length of a football field.
Apparently the Daring Jumping Spider is hypnotic too. It’s the only explanation as to how I was able to get unflinchingly close to something I normally would avoid like the swine flu.