Monday, June 15, 2009

Jumping Spider Jumps!

After a meeting in Dayton last Sunday, several of us paid a visit to the legendary Cedar Bog, near Urbana. There, we saw many interesting and rare things, both plant and animal. And if you've not been to Cedar Bog lately, or at all, GO! The brand spanking new visitor's center is incredible, and you'll be assured of having a good time.

The boardwalk, which winds through an entrance meadow and on into Ohio's only fen - not a bog! - dominated by White Cedar, Thuja occidentalis. At the time the first settlers colonized Champaign County, the cedar fen sprawled over some 7,000 acres. The preserve encompasses about 435 acres - that's all that's left of this fabulous ecosystem.

The marquee plant this time of year is North America's largest orchid, the Showy Lady's-slipper, Cypripedium reginae. Some enormous clumps dot the meadows, such as the old plant above.

Another beautiful albeit much more diminutive orchid was just beginning to flower, the Grass-pink, Calopogon tuberosus. In a week or so they'll dot the fen meadows pink.

Beautiful flora aside, this little spider was among the stars of the show. It is a Woodland Jumping Spider, Thiodina sylvana, and it put on quite a show for us. Jumping spiders are fantastic little creatures, and next time you see one, try and take a few minutes to watch it operate.
Jumpers don't make webs to catch prey; they stalk their subjects and nab them in a spectacular deadly leap. Such is their jumping ability that a six-foot tall person would have to be able to jump over the equivalent of a large building to match the leaps of a jumping spider. They also have the ability to process and temporarily store locational data. Thus, a spider can spot a potential victim, move out of sight and stalk while hidden behind obstructions, then spring with deadly accuracy from a new position without having eyeballed the soon to be dead prey since the initial visual contact.

Jumping spiders are charismatic, and many people who are died in the wool arachnophobes even find them "cute". It's as if the spiders watch you - they do!- and react to your movements. They often wave their forelegs about as if flashing semaphore signals. The spiders will cock their heads and seem to gaze curiously at you, and do not display much fear.
In the above video, the spider makes a wild leap for my camera lens, misses, and self-rescues via the safety line that he had attached to the leaf prior to the launch. Watch closely at the end and you'll see him rapidly climbing the line back to the leaf.

My cohorts thought the spider disliked me, and was attacking. And it's a darn good thing these jumping spiders aren't the size of Woodchucks! Otherwise, the video above would have looked very different. You'd have seen a large furry blob fly forward and block the camera view like an eclipse, hear me screaming crazily and rapid blurred images of spider legs and foliage whirring around as we tussled, the wild roars of my companions as they raced away in horror, followed by a grim stillness.
But they are not big and we have nothing to fear. This was cool, though. I think that the spider, with its incredible vision, probably saw its own reflection in the lens of my camera. Thinking its image to be that of possible prey, it stalked my camera and when the time was right, leapt. You can see it walk across the lens at the end.
Pretty cool stuff.


Janet Creamer said...

It WAS attacking, they can smell fear, McCormac. LOL

Very cool. Maybe I will see it this weekend when I take my sister to see the orchids.

dAwN said...

The videos were great! So neat how it jumped to your lens and then i could see its silhouette.
I have seen lady slippers but never ones like you have there..
I really have to get to your neck of the woods sometime.
If we were to go..and wanted to see birds, plants, oh maybe some know all the good stuff..what time of year would be best?

Marvin said...

Love the Showy Lady's-slipper and the jumping spider is cute -- fearless, cute.

Jim McCormac said...

Thanks for the comments, everyone. Dawn, you really should try and put Ohio on your map for next May - 1st or 2nd week. We are the warbler capital of the world then, and Magee Marsh and Shawnee State Forest would be fantastic places to visit.


Heather said...

Very cool, indeed! Cedar Bog is on my list of "go to" places, and I'll get there some day. (the Wilds was on that list for years, finally checked that one off!) I grew up in Springfield, and it seems like there were science class field trips to Cedar Bog all the time, but somehow I was never in the right class!

nina at Nature Remains. said...

How is it that there are so many as yet undiscovered (by me) places within a day's drive??
Cedar Bog may be crossed off THAT list this weekend!

I adore jumping spiders--so spunky, very interactive, as spiders go.
And the subject of my post here, too.

salnmike said...

Thanks for the info on the jumping spider. I'm one of the arachophobes and won't be going to look for it! LOL

Hope you come back to the Bog soon! The birds are fantastic - Waxwaings and buntings have been everywhere lately!Hope to see you soon!