The zebra spider is a small spider living in Europe, northern Asia, and North America. I probably don’t need to explain how this animal got its name. The picture above is of a male zebra spider while the spider below is a female. One way to tell the difference between the males and females is that the males have an extra pair of appendages on their “heads.” These appendages, which are called chelicerae, are kind of hard to distinguish on the top picture, but you may be able to see some extra stuff below males’ fangs that the female does not have. These appendages are usually used during fights with other males.
Zebra spiders are very tiny, and males are smaller than females. Females can be as large as seven millimeters while males reach only four to five and a half millimeters. This is about the size of a pea or about one third of the diameter of a U.S. dime!
Zebra spiders have four pairs of eyes which aid them during hunting. These eight eyes are positioned so that the zebra spider has three-hundred and sixty degree vision! Three of these four pairs can easily be seen in each of these two pictures. There is one large pair on the front of the spider’s “head,” a smaller pair with one eye on each side of the larger pair, and another small pair about halfway back on the sides of the head. Zebra spiders are thought to have some of the best eyesight of all spiders! If you slowly wave your finger at a zebra spider, it will turn its head so that is can get the best view of what is going on.
Unlike most spiders, zebra spiders do not catch prey by building a web. Instead they actively hunt down their prey. Some prey may include mosquitoes, flies, and spiders. They may even eat other zebra spiders! When they find some potential prey, zebra spiders will sneak up behind them and jump on them, immobilizing the prey using their fangs. Using this technique, zebra spiders can sometimes take down prey that is even bigger than they are! This technique also places them in the group of spiders commonly known as “jumping spiders.”
Often these spiders will attack by jumping from a higher surface to a lower surface where their prey is. These spiders also have a sort of safety plan if their would-be prey escapes. Before jumping, zebra spiders will attach some silk to the surface they are jumping from. If their attack fails they can climb back up to their perch.
In the areas where they live, zebra spiders are common in gardens. This is probably partially because there is so much prey there. They are also common in houses. In general, any place with vertical surfaces to hunt off will suit the zebra spider as long as it is not too extreme in any weather.
Predators and protection
Wasps and mantises are some of the few known predators of zebra spiders. Zebra spiders may also fall prey to other animals. Protection for these spiders includes their neutral coloring, which helps them blend in, and their good eyesight, which helps them detect predators before it is too late.
Male zebra spiders have an interesting ritual that they preform in front of females in order to gain the right to mate with them. Click here to see a video of this “dance.” If the female likes the display, she will crouch down signaling to the male that she is receptive. The male will then climb on top of her and they will mate. Zebra spiders breed in the spring and early summer. This is a dangerous activity for males as females will sometimes mistake them for food and eat them. Information is currently unavailable on the number of eggs and hatching time for zebra spiders. The eggs are kept in a silk cocoon, and the female will guard the eggs and the young until their second molt. In captivity these animals can live up to three years, and the females normally live longer than males.
Don’t forget to scroll down and comment your guess about what the next animal is!
- Male zebra spider – Kaldari
- Female zebra spider – Kaldari
- Mystery animal – Cliff