Jumping spiders are a fascinating group, making up the largest family of spiders in the world. They are as diverse as birds with a range of complex behaviours which have allowed them to successfully adapt to a wide variety of habitats, globally.
Their remarkably well developed eyes give them better vision than that of any land dwelling invertebrate, almost on par with vertebrates.
However, despite being widely distributed, their natural history, behaviour and biology remains poorly understood, especially in India. Even relatively common and widespread species such as the common housefly-catcher, Plexippus petersi, remain little studied.
We studied the feeding habits of this spider and found that it can even overpower and feed upon other spiders, in this case a much larger species, the Twin-Tail spider (Hersilia sp.). The Twin-tail spider is a formidable, flat bodied predator which lies in wait, camouflaged against tree trunks, or other suitable locations, and traps passing prey by rapidly encircling them with silk released from a pair of elongated spinning organs (giving the spider its popular name). Once the prey is wrapped, the spider injects it with a cocktail of venom and digestive enzymes, which partly digests it, and feeds on it.
I found this female P. petersi located on the ledge of my garage wall ventilator, stalking a female Hersilia spider positioned five inches below it. P. petersi approached Hersilia from behind and lunged and grabbed it. After a brief struggle, during which the Hersilia tried to envelope its predator and failed. P. petersi captured and carried the captured Hersilia back up the wall and into a crevice, in a corner of the ventilator.
Attacking other spiders though, comes at a high cost. Hunter can become the hunted, and a prospective meal can turn tables and eat it’s would-be predator instead.
The discoveries were published in ‘Peckhamia‘, a reputed International scientific journal, which publishes novel and significant observations and discoveries on Jumping spiders, and is the only journal in the world to do so, and Dr. David E. Hill, one of the world’s leading authorities on jumping spiders, and who has described several species of Peacock Jumping spiders, called thus owing to their colorful, often flamboyant courtship displays, was kind enough to generously collaborate on this publication.
Kudos and thanks to my colleagues and friends, Mr. Javed Ahmed and Ms. Rajashree Khalap for collaborating with me, on this behavioural note. Thanks to Nicky Bay, fellow Arachnophile and macro photographer extraordinaire for generously contributing his photograph, for our paper, and for the many wonderful discussions held on the subject. Mr. Abhishek Jamalabad is also thanked for contributing his image, pertaining to the subject matter.
Ahmed, J., K. Mohan, R. Khalap and D. E. Hill. 2015. Araneophagic behavior in Plexippus petersi (Karsch 1878) (Araneae: Salticidae: Plexippoida: Plexippinae). Peckhamia 132.1: 1-4.
Download it from http://peckhamia.com/peckhamia/PECKHAMIA_132.1.pdf