April 2023 Spider of the Month

The spider of the month is this male Tanzania jumping spider (Tanzania sp.; Salticidae), photographed by Vida van der Walt.

The spider was found by Ludwig Eksteen in Tzaneen, Limpopo, who sent him to Charles Haddad, who then sent him to Vida. Charles confirmed that it is a new, undescribed Tanzania species. Vida is no stranger when it comes to photographing jumping spiders, but she said that it is “the smallest spider I have photographed to date … Trying to photograph something so small pushed my camera lens to its limits”.

At 1.35 mm long, this is the smallest jumping spider in Africa, and one of the smallest in the world. For this reason, the genus was originally named Lilliput (Wesołowska & Russell-Smith, 2000), after the island kingdom in Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, which was inhabited by very tiny people. The name Lilliput was apparently preoccupied in Coleoptera (beetle order) and was renamed Tanzania in 2008 (Koçak & Kemal, 2008), after the type locality (Tanzania) of the type species (T. mkomaziensis).

Of the seven recorded species in the world, five of them are found in South Africa. Only one species (T. yellapragadai) is found outside Africa, in India. It is suspected that these spiders are mite mimics. Due to their small size, there are probably more undiscovered species out there.