Red-Tailed Jumping Spider
Many years ago, we had a small aquarium with a couple of small fish that eventually died of old age. Rather than restock it, we poured the gravel and associated seashells out into a place in the yard where small animals had been trying to burrow under the house. Then we forgot about it. Now, jump to the present – on May 21, 2012, Sam was rummaging around in the yard, and found the forgotten aquarium gravel. She loves seashells, so she went through it to pick out the shells. And inside one of the shells, just peeking around the edge, was this tiny little jumping spider:
I’m going to call this a “red-tailed jumping spider”, because, hey, red tail:
I have no idea if this is its “official” common name, but I think it is appropriate and has the advantage that anyone hearing it will have a pretty good idea of what I’m talking about. This actually looks like one that I might be able to identify to species. I do believe that it is Habronattus decorus, it certainly has the right coloration, and that kind of round-headed, spiky-haired facial appearance.
This pretty little fellow is certainly a male, the females don’t have the red abdomens like that. This site has a nice video of both a male and a female, making it easy to see the difference. There are a number of jumping spiders where the males are very colorful, which doesn’t seem to be the case for other spider families. This is probably because jumping spiders are much more visually-oriented than your average spider, and so the females can actually see (and presumably appreciate) the colors and displays of their prospective mates.
 Sam was actually looking for guinea-fowl eggs when she found the seashells. We have two guinea fowl running around the yard to keep the tick population down (which seems to be working), and they periodically leave clutches of up to a dozen eggs scattered around the yard. They are both female, so the eggs obviously aren’t going to hatch, and whenever the girls find a clutch, we collect and eat the eggs. Guinea fowl eggs are brown and about the size of “small” chicken eggs, with a more pointed end and shells thick enough that you really have to whack them pretty hard to open them. They have yolks about the same size as a chicken-egg yolk, but significantly less of the “whites”.
 If one wanted to cheat in an Egg Drop Competition, slipping in a guinea-fowl egg instead of a chicken egg would probably be a good start.
 I tried photographing this one without my cone light concentrator, to avoid getting the distracting “pseudopupils” reflected in the eye like I normally get with jumping spiders. So this one was photographed in a little “white box” that I folded out of a sheet of white drawing paper. It sort of worked, but the face wasn’t as well-illuminated as in the previous pictures. Oh well, back to the drawing board.