Thursday, April 9, 2009

Another One of My Little Friends

Okay, I really don't want to turn this into a "photo blog," but I can't resist sharing these pictures with you. Plus a little background.

See, when I was a little girl, I liked bugs (though spiders did give me the creeps). The lady across the street knew that I liked to let June bugs clamber around on my hands and stuff, so it got to the point where whenever she found a garter snake or a big bug or something while she was out gardening, she would call me over: "Hey, come over here, Julie, I've found another one of your little friends." And I would trot right over to see what she had: Ooooooohhh!

So I thought of Mrs. Crawford last night when I discovered this cute little jumping spider exploring the ceiling inside our front dormer window. I suspect this spider came in on a plant we had brought in for the winter. Or maybe she crept into the house through one of our drafty windows. I dunno.

I'll tell you more about how I came to appreciate spiders, in particular, despite my ingrained fear of them, some other time.

But for now, realize that I have a special appreciation for jumping spiders. I decided they're just cute: They're fuzzy like little teddy bears. They wear goggles--or are they headlights? They're chunky and armored, little all-terrain vehicles, like the toy model tanks my brother had growing up. When they're scared, they have a habit of covering their mouths (chelicerae) with their hands (pedipalps).

When they walk, I think "tic-tic-tic-tic-tic . . ." When they rear their heads up to look around, I imagine them making a sound like "hmmm--????" They are curious creatures, and they inspire curiosity in me as well.

Of course I wasn't going to squash her. I felt sorry for her: She was probably getting worried about being in a place so devoid of potential food items. I bet she hadn't eaten all day. So I grabbed the plastic cover from my spindle of CDs and a small stack of manuscript pages, trapped her gently, and escorted her outside. Oh, and I brought my camera along, too.

My camera, by the way, is the whole reason any of these photos might be decent--it's a Nikon Coolpix E4500. Autofocus; 28mm. To get these, I put it on the "flower setting" and zoomed in or out. I simply take a whole lot of pictures, hoping a few will "come out." And that's the extent of my photography skills, pretty much.

So: I think this is a female Platycryptus undatus. According to Wikipedia, the genus name needs to be changed, since it's already been used for a wasp genus (and genus names can't be reused for different genera--it's the law). My handy (and simplified) Golden Nature Guide Spiders and Their Kin (1968) lists it as Metacyrba undata, which, I presume, is an outdated synonym.

Apparently these little hunters like to live around and under the bark of trees, which makes a lot of sense, given their coloration and patterns.

Here's a view of her driver's side:

And here's a picture of her kind of reared up. She was surprisingly bright orange on her undercarriage. When she struck this pose (and she did it often, once I'd dumped her out on our front walkway), it was like she was sniffing the breeze, or periscoping with her eight eyes, "prairie-dogging," trying to get her bearings as an extraordinarily short-statured being in an immense and unknown, unpredictable world.

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