The Australian jewel spider builds its orb-shaped web from silk (2), placing silky ‘tufts’ on specific threads as it does so (7). All spiders are predatory and carnivorous, feeding by injecting venom into their insect prey (8). As an opportunistic feeder, the Australian jewel spider has a web which is extremely well adapted to catch flying insects (9).
Female and juvenile Australian jewel spiders spin orb webs solitarily or occasionally in groups, which are known as ‘facultative aggregations’. The potential advantages of facultative aggregations are increased protection from predators, increased prey capture, and greater mate choice for females. Associated costs can include increased parasitism of egg cases. The collective webs of the Australian jewel spider are often made up of up to 30 individual webs that are joined together by shared support threads (2).
When courting a female, the male Australian jewel spider begins by building a ‘mating thread’ from the vegetation to the edge of the female’s web, and strumming it using the first and second pair of legs. The female spider is enticed onto the mating thread by the strumming, and is then tightly embraced by the male, who passes sperm to the female’s external genital structure via a pedipalp (10). The male Australian jewel spider will defend the female following mating, ceasing only when the female is no longer receptive to mating (11).
The variably shaped egg sacs of the Australian jewel spider are reddish-brown, and are usually found attached to a twig, close to the web (6). Australian jewel spiderlings pass through the Australian winter season within the camouflaged egg sacs, emerging in early spring. Male spiders reach maturity by mid-December whereas females mature later, in mid-January (2).