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In Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, Portia is the clever heroine with beauty and wit who fulfils her role as a mistress of disguise. Her namesake spider has similar qualities and is the undoubtedly the queen of the family of jumping spiders—Salticidae.
Portia fimbriata is a spider’s spider. The family Salticidae numbers 5000 known species, and all are aggressive carnivores, even of other spiders. Portia, though, goes a step beyond that, as she prefers to hunt jumping spiders; as a result she has acquired special adaptations.
Jumping spiders are positively charming creatures, and you will know that to be true if you have ever watched one closely. These are common spiders and range from approximately 3–17 mm in length; they will watch you closely as you approach them. They have four pairs of eyes, with the large anterior median (AM) set the most obvious. These circular eyes provide an “attentive child” appearance because they are fixed and are relatively large based on body size, but they are tiny on an absolute scale. These placid eyes belie the organised complexity and evolutionary genius that lies beneath …