This morning, my partner and I decided to go to the river park and just chill (since it’s been a while since we’ve been out of the house together). While we were sitting in the shade of the tree near the pop-up cafe, I noticed something crawling (really jumping) across the table and on my bag.
Looking closer I recognized that it was a small, brown jumping spider. And judging by the size of the abdomen I believe it was female (since females have ovaries their abdomens are usually slightly larger than males, it’s a subtle difference but it gets easier to spot the more you observe). She started crawling along the edge of the table, very slowly and precisely.
Following the edge of the table I looked to where she might be going and up ahead I saw another jumping spider! This one was gray with white and black stripes. I have seen this type before and I affectionately call it the “zebra” spider, though I’m quite certain that’s not its official name by any means. In fact, after doing some preliminary research for this post I believe it is the Pantropical Jumper (see image below).
In addition to noticing its wonderful coloration, I also noticed that this one’s abdomen was relatively small and it had the special pair of appendages on its front which are used to for delivering sperm packets during mating. In the image below, you can see these bulbous appendages between its front pairs of legs. So this second jumping spider was male.
Looking back toward the female I noticed she had slowed down her pace and was moving ever so slightly forward. She was stalking her prey! The male jumping spider! I was stunned! It really was like being in a nature documentary.
I continued to observe the two spiders; the female making her slow and careful approach toward the male while the male continued to stroll along, with his rear facing the female, seemingly oblivious to what was going on. I was careful not to move. I was within two feet of this scene and I have no doubt with their excellent vision my movement could have triggered either of them.
At last, she was about 2 inches from the male and paused her approach. I thought, “This is it. She’s going to pounce on her prey.” Then, to my surprise, in the blink of an eye the male jumping spider did a 180 degree turn and faced the female before suddenly dropping from the edge of the table to crawl underneath the table’s surface. He wasn’t going to be eaten today.
The female stood at the spot where she had (presumably) planned her jump. I could see her head move around a bit as she surveyed the scene. I assume she was wondering where the male jumping spider had gone (he really did disappear in a flash) but didn’t have the higher perspective I had to know he had crawled under the table. After a few moments of pandering his whereabouts, she seemed to lose interest and went about her day (presumably to find another source of prey).
I felt exhilarated while watching this play out. Constantly thinking “Will she make it? Will he get eaten? Will he survive?” This must be similar to what nature documentary filmmakers feel as they film these kinds of things. Though I imagine it could be amplified with the added pressure to produce content for a feature piece. Thankfully that pressure was absent in my experience and I merely enjoyed a pleasant moment of being mindful of my surroundings, soaking in the delights nature has to offer.
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