Georgia Jumping Spiders (including New Species!)
- August 18th, 2013
- Posted in Insects & Spiders . Macro Photography . Photography . Recreation & Travel
- By John Koerner
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Took a trip up to north Georgia back in June, and just got through all the photographs now. Some of these are cell phone shots (mostly the ones of me/us) and others are DSLR shots. Aside from taking a vacation just to relax, we made it a point to look for some jumping spiders that were endemic to the area because of the unique terrain. And, I must say, north Georgia is quite a bit different from south Georgia let alone from south Florida where I live.
The photo above was actually taken in Tennessee, just north of the Georgia border (as we also hiked up that-a-way too), but the terrain is quite similar to The Blue Ridge Mountains where we stayed.
One of the things that is markedly different about north Georgia, from south Florida where I live, is the fact there are mountains! Some of you who live around mountains may take them for granted, but (trust me) when you haven’t seen a mountain in a few years, you appreciate how majestic they are when you see them again. The mountains above were on our way to Helen, GA. One of the characteristics of driving along windy mountain roads is that there are sheer sections of rock that get cut-through, and who would have thought these facades would form whole ecosystems of their own?
Replete with mosses, lichens, protruding little grasses … and nooks & crannies everywhere … these rock faces actually have a whole biological diversity that is entirely unique to the surrounding area. And so, of course, an entirely unique array of spiders went along with it
With this in mind, at various intervals, we would stop and have a look. We spent several days driving, and (wherever it was safe to do so) we would pull over to the side of the road and look at different rock systems to see if we could find any unique Habronattus juming spiders.
At first, I didn’t think we’d be successful, because it was very damp out, and right after a fresh rain. Yet, lo-and-behold, after I got my bearings, I was able to find a few of these tiny Jumping spiders on the rock faces, just not Habronattus. Instead, what I found was Naphrys pulex:
What the reader should keep in mind is these spiders are tiny! I mean, they’re about the size a bb that you’d put in a bb-gun: little 8-legged grey specks on rocks. Yet, as such, they are perfectly-suited (and camouflaged!) for living on these sheer mountain surfaces, and it was a treat to be able to find a few of them. I tried my best to get some clear photographs of them in their natural habitat, but it wasn’t easy!
Aside from investigating sheer mountain surfaces, naturally Patricia and I walked along The Appalachian Trail … and we encountered a whole host of beautiful plants and animals along the way. Our favorite spot was just north of Georgia, in Polk County, TN, along the Ocoee River. There were three hiking trails: one back behind the Ocoee River; one down river aways (remote and little-used); and the last on was further down the river (cleaner and often used). We chose the first one to begin out journey into Cherokee National Forest:
We proceeded to hike down one of the most beautiful trails we’d ever been on, and Patricia was rarin’ to go
The forest trail did not disappoint. Open and bright in some areas, yet covered and intriguingly dark in others, the Cherokee National Forest had a virtual cornucopia of delights to offer. For the naturalist interested in finding arthropods (insects, spiders, etc.), there were opportunities of discovery at every turn:
It really was an immersive experience. Not only were there beautiful trees, shrubs, and ferns to delight the senses, but (since it had rained recently) there was also a wonderful array of fresh mushrooms and other colorful fungi distributed about the forest floor:
So onward we progressed down the seemingly endless mountain trail, eager to find all kinds of neat stuff.
When hiking in the woods looking for arthropods like this, it is important to walk s-l-o-w-l-y!
The reason is there are so many places to look, you can’t do any of them justice by hurrying. The leaves, the shrubs, the ground, the rocks—and even the tree bark—all contain the possibility of hosting some really interesting creatures. For example, as with the rock jumpers mentioned in the beginning, the tree bark is also host to its own kind of specialized jumping spiders
Again, the reader is reminded that these little spiders are about the size of a bb, so it’s very hard to get them into perfect focus hand-holding a camera. As mentioned, aside from looking on tree bark, there were also some pretty cool critters to be found on the ground as well, including these two Tiger Beetles, and some pretty nice wolf spiders
And back up on the trees, even the snails can be beautiful as well …
It seemed like no matter which way we looked, there were more stunning tiny creatures to be seen. After we finished being treated to the Tiger Beetles on the ground (and tree root), as well as a massive wolf spider, lo-and-behold there was a gorgeous young Phidippus whitmani jumping spider in the nearby leaves:
We kept on hiking and looking around (hoping we wouldn’t get lost, lol, as many of the trails forked-out into new trails, which made it confusing at times as to which would be the way to go back). Sometimes we just looked with our eyes, while at other times I had to use the sweep net and beat sheet to produce specimens:
At one point, we decided to take a break, and me and Amazon had a moment together, while Patricia took photos;
However, the most exciting part of the trip was when we found a male and female specimen of a new species of jumping spider that has not yet been described by science. It is a Maevia species. They can be found on low-hanging shrubs, on fallen logs, and even on your house. These move very fast and are very hard to capture to camera, but they are beautiful and well worth it when you can get a good shot of them:
There are a lot more photos that we took, but these are the ones that comprise “The Macro Story” … so I hope you enjoyed reading this as much we enjoyed living it.