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Tiny Golden Jumping Spider, Who Are You?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Let's find out.

 I just flippin' love living in the Information Age. It is the perfect place and time for a Science Chimp to flourish and thrive. Even five years ago, if I had put my hand on the garden gate and seen a tiny iridescent golden jumping spider leap to the next post, I would have bent down, studied it, run inside to my woefully inadequate shelf of invertebrate field guides (well, they're great for big flashy butterflies, and the Kaufman Insect Guide has delighted me again and again, but I didn't have that five years ago), and I would have sadly concluded that it was a really neat little golden jumping spider and wished hard that I knew its true name.                                                     
  This thing was tiny and very shy and I had a devil of a time getting pictures of it.  They don't begin to capture its mystery and elegance. It looked like it was made of molten gold with a pinkish-lilac sheen that changed depending on how the light hit it.

I kept herding it around with my fingers and sticking the Canon G-11 right down on top of it and finally got some acceptable pictures before it disappeared into the marjoram, thoroughly disgusted at my presumption.

I stored the photos away until a golden Tuesday evening with the scissorgrinder cicadas competing lustily with lawnmowers and children laughing in the town green. An evening after a week of houseguests and cooking and wild wonderful music and pure fun. An evening when I could finally think about tiny gold jumping spiders and wonder what they might be.

I went to  I typed "golden jumping spider" in the search box. And up popped matching photos of the gold jumping spider Tutelina elegans.  And I marveled that this could work. And marveled that I, an armchair Linnaeus, had already named it the same thing, minus the Latin. But the Latin is the key; the Latin is what will give me more. I have found out that they eat carpenter ants, but not a lot more. But that, at least, is a start.

My Webby peregrinations led me to a wonderful site tended by an old friend named Dick Walton.  Well, imagine that. I haven't seen him since the late '80's, at an Association of Field Ornithologists meeting where I was showing some very early paintings. He's making amazing videos of all manner of small creatures on his web site, Natural History Services. Here's his video of Tutelina elegans doing its thing. Watching it, you can appreciate the wonder of finding a tiny, shining golden-purple spider on a garden gate. Watching it, you can feel the enormity of knowing there's this huge, huge web of people pumping information out into the universe for no other reason than the love of knowing. Thank you, Dick. Thank you, Bugguide biologists. Thank you, Web. Thank you, Universe.



Julie - I've been on Bug Guide all day, first with robber flies, then sweat bees, now Costa Rican Katydids. What a great resources. Eric Eaton, of the Kaufmann guide, is one of the driving forces behind bug guide.

Last fall we caught a Pelecynid wasp at the field station. I wanted the students to have a chance to figure out what it was, so I didn't tell them. As soon as we got back in cell range heading into town one of the students got out her phone and figured out the ID using Bug Guide.

I have had this experience with the internet (sometimes using BugGuide, sometimes just random Google searches) many times now, and it never ceases to amaze me. I often describe BugGuide to people as my single favorite website on the entire internet. Yesterday I had a photo of a dragonfly I wanted to identify, and when posting it to the ID request section didn't get me any leads, I managed to ID it myself with a combination of the photos on BugGuide and a Wikipedia article that helped me get it to family level. Hurrah for the love of knowing!

big happy smile
i love this type of discovery and i love the can find anything on google!!!

Posted by Judy Khoii August 16, 2011 at 5:33 PM

That little spider looks like a piece of fine jewelry.

A more general way this sort of thing has worked for me on occasion is to type a description or made-up name into the site -- which will bring up many images at least some of which are hopefully the thing you're looking for, in which case click on the image to go to a page with more info.
Too much fun!

I had a similar experience with a jumping spider just a month or two ago, too! The arachnid in question was on the car next to mine in the school parking lot and I couldn't help feeling that it was...watching me. Take a look:
Google pointed to the page of a photographer who had a similar picture and listed the species as Thiodina sylvana (woodland jumping spider?) However, none of BugGuide's pictures of this species show such a fearsome specimen as mine!

It doesn't really matter whether it's a field guide or encyclopedia or a great website....getting sucked into a vortex of wonderment is a good way to pass the time :)

Hmm, link didn't work....maybe this:

nice blog.. It just makes blog visitors to stop n read.. :) well you can check my blog if you like, here is the link:

I also discovered Bug Guide this summer. You can post pictures of unknown bugs and someone will ID them for you, usually in an hour or two! What a boon for those of us with enquiring minds.

Thanks for your blog.

Posted by Musicmom August 17, 2011 at 5:39 AM

We LOVE What a wonderful resource for our homeschooling family. We're on there all the time. If you see your Tutelina elegans again, please tell him to send some friends our way. We're fighting carpenter ants, and would love the help of the Golden Jumping Spider.

Thank goodness for the innernets! I don't know what I would do without it. I haven't yet jumped on the BugGuide bandwagon - I think I don't know how to use it right. I bet many armchair naturalists, though, use the internet and good ol' paper field guides in tandem. Hooray for the wealth of information out there for all our eager little hands and minds to grab and digest!!

Holy frass,'d you manage to introduce a spider, a bug guide and a Latin name...and make it sing? Great post.

Careful, ... your Joie de la connaissance is showing.

We do live in a unique time in history.

the web is an amazing thing! Sometimes I try to think of an interesting question just to see where it will take me. Fun stuff!

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