Friday, October 30, 2009

Amazing jumping spiders!

I don’t often use other people’s photos on this blog, but I just had to share some of the coolest macro-work being done, anywhere. Following are some utterly amazing shots courtesy of Thomas Shahan of Oklahoma.

I came into contact with Thomas early this summer, in the course of working on a spider project. After seeing his work, I contacted him and he was very gracious in agreeing to work with our team. You can see a broad range of his photos RIGHT HERE.

Other people have noticed Thomas’s photography, and this attention led to his recent appearance on the Today Show. Check THIS LINK to see it.

Below are a few of Shahan’s stunning images of jumping spiders, one of his favorite subjects. All of these species are among the 76 species of jumping spiders known to occur in Ohio. Enjoy!

A male Habronattus coecatus (most of these spiders haven’t yet been branded with formal common names). Quite the charmer, this little guy. Looks big, ferocious, and deadly, but at the same time just about as cute as a spider can possibly get. Most jumpers are tiny; a big female of some species might push the tape to 3/8 of an inch, and many males would be measured in millimeters.

They are ferocious predators, albeit on a Lilliputian scale. Good thing for us they aren’t the size of German Shepherds or we’d have a situation straight out of Eight Legged Freaks!

Hentzia mitrata, male, looking like something out of a science fiction movie. Seen on this scale, the eyes of jumping spiders are one of the dominant features. There are eight, but four are typically small and concealed. Jumping spiders see better than any other family of spiders, and use their exceptional vision to sight prey. You can test this yourself. Next time you see a jumper, approach it closely and lean in towards it. The spider will cock its body to better watch you, and turn to keep you in its line of sight. Sometimes they even will approach, and if you are shooting photos, are notorious for jumping right onto the camera lens. My hunch is they see their reflection, and are attacking it.

An incredible closeup of the binocularlike peepers of a female Dimorphic Jumper, Maevia inclemens. In many species, the various sets of eyes are all canted in different directions, allowing the animal to see many different angles simultaneously.

Male Paraphidippus aurantius, sporting walruslike tusks. They are actually the chelicerae, which are grasping mouthparts and are connected to the venom glands. In short, the business end and the above is definitely a view that you’ll want to see if you are a potential meal.

Female Phidippus putnami, and just darned cute for a spider. She looks like a little punk rocker with spiked hair.

Jumping spiders are aptly named. They locomote with incredible springy bounds, and when suitable prey is detected, it'll be leaped upon, often from a good distance away. Some jumpers can reportedly make leaps of up to 80 times the length of their body! To match this feat, a six-foot tall person would have to be able to jump something like 500 feet - from a standing start!

Another amazing thing about jumping spiders is their ability to retain the exact location of prey, even when it isn't in view. This allows the spider to stalk prey, and work into an optimal position for pouncing, without having to constantly keep the victim to be in sight. Jumpers can even leap from a blind spot, and apparently still strike with deadly accuracy.
My personal favorite, a male Phidippus mystaceus. That is just a jaw-dropping photo. As small as this spider is, one would never have any idea of its beautiful complexity without benefit of a photo like this. And photos like this are NOT easy to get. Shahan spends hours with his tiny eight-legged subjects, and no doubt takes many hundreds of shots, most of which are probably not keepers.

Work such as this is not only interesting to look at, and quite artistic, it goes a long ways towards getting people interested in spiders - one of the most maligned groups of animals.


Robin Mullet said...

Appropriate for Halloween, Jim. As a child I feared spiders and I'm leery even today, but these little dudes are beautifully colored and actually quite comical. Thanks for posting this.

Jana said...

Incredible photos. Their eyes look like cabochon gems set in bezels.

I'm sharing these photos and especially sending them to my daughter who lives in CA and is plagued by spiders.

Lisa at Greenbow said...

WOW, what photos. They are like works of art.

OpposableChums said...

Astounding photos. Thanks for posting them.

Sentimental Sapsucker said...

c a n ‘ t r e s i s t
Art Deco spiders! Very very nice. The eyes of the Maevia in center pic remind me of early large-screen TV projection lights ?
It is funny how jumpers always pivot toward you. They seem feisty, almost playful. Makes me nervous to photograph them though. … I think the amazing Mr. Shahan gave his subjects Quaaludes. ; ~ D

Cathy said...

I LOVE these little spiders. I'm tickled every time one jumps on my lens. I figured they were taking on that big black nosinski that was following them around. Your explanation about seeing their reflections - works for me.

Great post.

nanci said...

What beautiful photos!I'll never look at jumpers quite the same way again...

nina at Nature Remains. said...

What's not to love about those faces??
I love these little guys (the big ones are a little daunting, but the little ones are lots of fun).
I can never get them to hold still for a picture.
But playing peek-a-boo with one is fun, too!

Janet Creamer said...

Gotta love the jumping spiders! Beautiful macro shots by your friend. Thanks for sharing.

LauraHinNJ said...

Fantastic photos! Thanks for sharing. Hard not to like spiders that show so much personality.


T.R. said...

Let's here it for the Okies!

dAwN said...

Wow..those photos are amazing..
Great information as always here..i may not always comment..but..I love reading your blog..
and I just tweeted this out to twitter ..

Anonymous said...

Just a silly thought, but all those eyes remind me of all the headlights on the newer Mustang GT’s.