The zebra spider (Salticus scenicus) is one of the most familiar of the British jumping spiders, and is often found on sunny house walls (2). As the name suggests, this small and attractive spider is black with stripes of shining white hairs (2). Males can be distinguished from females as they have a set of huge chelicerae that are used in battles with other males (3).
Jumping spiders do not make webs; instead they actively hunt their prey by creeping up and then jumping on them, disabling them with their jaws (5). They are equipped with excellent eyesight, and probably have the most developed eyes of any arthropod. Four of the eight eyes are large and forward-facing giving it stereoscopic vision; the other eyes are arranged so that the spider can see completely around its own body (3). If you slowly wave a finger at a zebra spider it is likely to turn so that it has a good view. They leave a line of silk behind them in case they should lose their footing (3).
In males, a pair of leg-like appendages called the pedipalps (or simply ‘palps’) are used to transfer sperm to females during copulation. During courtship, a zebra spider male has to be very careful when approaching the female, or she may react aggressively or even mistake him for a prey species. He signals to the female with his front legs before mating. If successful, he transfers his sperm to the female’s reproductive organ (the epigyne) (3).
The Arthropoda are a very diverse phylum (a major grouping of animals) that includes crustaceans, insects and arachnids. All arthropods have paired jointed limbs and a hard external skeleton (exoskeleton).
Pair of appendages on the ‘head’ of an arachnid (spiders, scorpions, mites, harvestmen etc). In spiders and harvestmen these appendages are jointed and are used to kill prey, and in defence. In spiders there is a poison gland at the base of each chelicera, from where a duct leads to the tip of the fang.
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