Field of Science

Taxon of the Week: Eye of the Spider

I'm afraid that today's "Taxon of the Week" must needs be a short one. I'm tutoring a lab course on invertebrate surveying this week, so I don't have the time to write an extensive post. I can only give you a whirlwind introduction to the lynx spiders of the family Oxyopidae (image above from Wikimedia).

Oxyopidae are one of the families of hunting spiders - that is, rather than building a web to catche prey in, they actively hunt for small insects. The name "lynx spider" is apparently supposed to refer to their sharp eyesight, though there seems to be some doubt as to just how sharp their eyesight is compared to, for instance, the jumping spiders of the Salticidae. Still, like other families of hunting spiders, Oxyopidae have all of their eyes directed more or less forward, and a sharp downwards bend to the front of the prosoma means that the four central eyes are looking straight ahead, as shown spectacularly well in the picture above from Ed Nieuwenhuys. In both the pictures above, if you look closely you may also make out the long spiny hairs sticking out at right angles from the legs that also seem to be characteristic of this family.

While they may not build webs for catching prey, female lynx spiders do use silk to protect their eggs, which they stand guard over until the eggs are well-developed.

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