Marpissoida: Dendryphantinae

North America jumping spiders share characteristics that, as a general rule, distinguish them from their South American relatives. Recent phylogenetic studies suggest one New World clade in the south (Amycoidea) and another northward (Marpissoida). A similar pattern of continental groupings is reflected in Old World salticids. Along with Habronattus spiders, the members of three other North American genera (Phidippus, Pelegrina, and Sassacus) comprise the typical salticids of our area. Seven of North America's sixty Phidippus species occur in Massachusetts. These relatively large, colorful jumping spiders were among the first North American salticids to be described. One species, Phidippus audax (Hentz), may be the most commonly observed jumping spider in the state. The Peckhams' 1909 work on North American salticids includes the first comprehensive treatment of Phidippus; a century later, G. B. Edwards (2004) published a revision of the genus. Both of these works have numerous descriptions and illustrations useful to naturalists and they are the major sources for what follows.

Phidippus jumping spiders are relatively large and "hairy." With the exception of some adult males, the presence of long tufts (setae) directly behind the PME are characteristic. The basal portions of the chelicerae (jaws) are often iridescent green and leg I often has well developed fringes. Markings on the dorsum are variations on the theme of four pairs of spots (I-IV) bordering a dark mid-dorsal stripe. When spot pair II is fused it creates a prominant dorsal mark. Depending on species and age there may also be a lateral band of light scaling encircling all or part of the abdomen and one or two oblique bands on the sides of the abdomen.

Their relatively large size make Phidippus jumpers fairly easy to find. In my experience, however, they are alert to observers in their immediate vicinity and wary of close approach. Typically these spiders seek cover once they become aware of an intruder. The best tactic for the observer may be to remain motionless (and patient) until the jumper emerges from his/her retreat. Males seeking mates or actively courting as well as those stalking or with captured prey may be easier to approach. Unlike our nesting birds that can be found throughout the season Phidippus spiders are typically active as adults for more restricted periods. Knowing the species' life history and habitat associations will increase your chances of finding a given species.
Edwards, 2004; Hill and Edwards, 2013

Edwards' (2004) phylogenetic analysis of spiders assigned to Phidippus produced a number of subgroups of closely related species. Below are the groups and their representatives that occur in Massachusetts along with summaries of life history characteristics by Edwards.
  • audax group:
  • P. audax
  • -mature in spring with various instars seen throughout the season
  • -old fields and man-made structures
  • -size and colors highly variable with marking normally white or orange
  • P. princeps
  • -mature in spring with various instars seen throughout the season
  • -woodland edges and openings in brush layer
  • cardinalis group:
  • P. cardinalis
  • -mature in fall with some females living until their second year
  • -sand plains, barrens, and other xeric habitats often in association with mutillid wasps
  • P. clarus
  • -mature in summer with adult females and juveniles seen through fall
  • -old fields and disturbed areas often on milkweeds and other annuals
  • insignarius group:
  • P. insignarius
  • -mature in summer with females present through fall
  • -oak and hickory woodlands (the "southern" component of MA transitional forests) and sand dune scrub
  • johnsoni group:
  • P. whimani
  • -mature in spring with penultimate males initially active and mature females emerging from their over-wintering burrows    as males complete their final molt
  • -habitat restricted to hardwood leaf litter along edges and in openings of deciduous woodlands
  • purpuratus group:
  • P. purpuratus
  • -occurs from spring through fall; a preponderance of records are of females but males have been recorded from May to    July
  • -xeric habitats including oak-hickory understory and sand plains