[Tweeters] The Fabulous Habronattus

Jeff Gibson gibsondesign at msn.com
Fri Sep 25 10:03:00 PDT 2015

It was the last day of Summer (9/22) down at the dunes at Fort Worden here in beautiful Port Townsend. I'd just got there from the gas station where I had injected eight dollars worth of petroleum product (thanks, fossil plankton) into my little truck so I could drive over to the park.
Arriving at the park I went straight to my favorite sandy path to the beach, looking for "bugs". The sands there are a good place to find some interesting ones. I really enjoy looking at tiny things - it's a fine way to gain perspective. When one examines very small things, why pretty soon you'll find something even smaller- at least I seem to. Smaller and smaller.
Sure, ants are small, but the Thatcher ants down on the dunes were giants compared to a tiny jumping spider I spied. It's creatures so small that make me regret we didn't switch to the metric system way back when (was it the 70's or 80's) our country was offered the opportunity. As a red-blooded American at the time, I rebelled against the notion, as it would have required me to learn something new. The late and still great writer Edward Abbey noted, comparing kilometers to miles, "they're smaller but theres more of them". I like that way of thinking. When it gets down to tiny, go metric.
Anyhoo, the tiny jumping spider I spotted on the sand was probably only 2mm long. Thats just an estimate, because the little thing was jumping around so much I could barely keep track of it. Using my landscaper arithmetic skills I estimated, based on seeing the tiny spider jump about about 3 inches (yeah, I know, not metric) that it would be like you or me jumping the length of a city block. That in itself would be amazing, but it was the speed at which the spider accomplished this feat that I thought was particularly astonishing - in a blink. Incredible!
Moving right along, just a few feet away (yeah, I know, not metric) I was thrilled to find the fabulous Habronattus! Don't bother looking it up in your bird guide, because the Habronattus is not a bird. The Habronattus is a spider. A jumping spider.
Now before you hit your delete button to remove another annoying non- bird post by me, I would like to point out that jumping spiders share a trait in common with birds - sexual dimorphism. The fabulous Habronattus is a flaming example. You see, the male of this species sports brilliant colors, unlike the female, which dresses in more conservative browns. The male Habronattus has brilliant red palps and forelegs, and has a bright iridescent blue band across it's somewhat scary spider face (google, or whatever, Habronattus americanus for the exciting photo details ) Oh yeah, they're freaky looking close up, but they're just little guys - the male I was watching only about 5mm long (thats metric). If you are the big power tripper type I guess you could just stomp the little monster, but they are harmless to hominids.
Fancily dressed spiders? Well, it turns out that jumping spiders have the best eyesight in the spider clan - I mean, wouldn't it be a waste of evolution if you got all decked out for your mate and she couldn't see you? But maybe your gal is nearsighted a bit - male jumping spiders also have developed "arm waving' mating displays to attract even more attention. I haven't seen this with the fabulous Habronattus, but have with another species.
Well, turns out Mr. Habronattus got lucky as I watched it on the sands. It was snooping about and came across a succulent green "cutworm" (a moth larvae, I think) . It rapidly hopped this way and that, eying it's prey, then jumped on it and hooked in. The "worm" was considerably longer than the spider. Think of drinking a green inflatable kayak full of Gatorade, or some other energy drink. Party down.
Jeff Gibsonout and about inPort Townsend Wa

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