Our November Spider of the Month (SOTM) is this male grass lynx spider (Oxyopes sp.; Oxyopidae), photographed by Corlien van Jaarsveld in Mtunzini, KwaZulu-Natal.
Corlien said: “While wandering through my garden in northern KwaZulu-Natal with my camera, as I often do, something red caught my eye. On closer inspection, I found this spectacular and conspicuously coloured spider, which I have never seen before. He was about a centimetre long and sat motionless for the entire photoshoot. Colourful and cooperative – what more could I ask for!”
The World Spider Catalog lists 290 Oxyopes species worldwide, with 25 recorded species in South Africa. However, there are MANY undescribed species in South Africa (this most likely being one of them), and this genus in Africa is in dire need of revision, with most of them described by Lessert between 1915 and 1946.
Oxyopes means “sharp-eyed”, derived from the Greek oxús (sharp) and ṓps (eye). Another source says it means “quick-footed”, derived from the Greek oxys (quick) and pesos (foot). While the latter makes sense because they are very agile, it is not the correct etymology. They can easily be recognised by their hexagonal eye pattern and the very long spines on their legs. While they are commonly called “grass lynx spiders”, many species prefer shrubs, bushes, and trees. They are very agile hunters that sometimes catch flying prey in mid-air, or drop onto unsuspecting prey (often also in flight) below, similar to some members of the feline family, like the lynx (hence the common name).