October 16th, 2010


50 More Urban Species #43: Phidippus audax; Urban Nature Pictures 10/13

Phidippus audax

In the course of doing the 365 Urban Species Project, there were a few organisms that I had in mind to blog about, that I didn't encounter, or photograph well enough. High among these Phiddippus audax, my favorite arachnid. I don't pick favorites very often, but this is a very charismatic spider. Jumping spiders in general, with their big forward-facing eyes and little forelimb gestures, are pretty endearing. They are some of the only spiders that really seem to acknowledge humans, turning to face us when approached, putting up those front legs in a threatening manner, and then jumping away (or sometimes toward us) at the last moment.

Phidippus audax also has those great big green fangs and three white dots that look like a face staring up from the abdomen. Regional variants have orange spots, and there are some related species that look similar, but P. audax is the most commonly encountered throughout North America. It also seems to have a particular preference for man-made habitat, or perhaps the kinds of insect prey that man-made habitat attracts. I used to call it "the window-sill spider" because I found it on an office window ledge catching flies so often. The individual on my icon had claimed my parked car as territory, and the one in these photos had set up shop inside a yellow jacket trap. This spider is sometimes given the common names "daring jumping spider" or "bold jumping spider" but I find those lacking and prefer the scientific name in this case.

(The consensus seems to be that Audax is pronounced Ow-dux. A spider guy on youtube said "Oddux," and I tend to say Oh-dacks, which is probably the least correct of all.)