By Molly Bilker | Photo by Bruce D. Taubert
Emerald jumping spiders (Paraphidippus aurantius) are flashy, and they flaunt it — the iridescent scales on their bodies make them especially shiny, which shows as they forage on low shrubs in sunny areas. Also known as golden jumping spiders, the arachnids are less than a half-inch long and can be found throughout the United States and Central America.
In general, they’re small and hairy, with better vision than other spiders. It’s evident in their eyes — four big eyes on their flat faces and four smaller eyes on the tops of their heads, giving them a 360-degree view. Like mammals, jumping spiders have singular eyes, which they can move to look around and change focus. As a benefit to their global perspective, these spiders can also turn the fronts of their bodies more than 45 degrees to look around.
Commonly called the tigers of the spider world, jumping spiders stalk their prey like cats, launching themselves onto other insects from a distance and grasping them in their jaws. When the spiders jump, they anchor themselves with a strand of silk, which they can use to keep themselves from falling and climb back to their original spot if they miss their prey.
When not hunting, the spiders construct tent-like homes in crevices where they sleep at night and hibernate in the winter. Most of the 5,000 species of jumping spiders live in tropical areas, but about 300 live in the United States.