September 2023 Spider of the Month

The spider of the month (SOTM) is this grass lynx spider (Oxyopes sp.; Oxyopidae), photographed by Robert Wienand in Sabiepark, Mpumalanga. This is most likely the velvet grass lynx spider (Oxyopes flavipalpis), which is known for its large variety of colours and patterns.

In his original post (which kind of went semi-viral, with almost 3 000 likes and 441 shares), Robert said:

“Another beauty from my trip to Sabiepark early in July. My eye caught the bright orange colour on our braai. At first I thought it was a small leaf, but the colour made me take a closer look. Then it moved and then I stared in amazement at this absolutely gorgeous spider. This is a Lynx Spider – Oxyopes flavipalpis (thank you Wessel for the species ID). Unfortunately from what feels like hundreds of photos I took of this spider this is the only reasonable stack I could manage.”

The World Spider Catalog lists 290 Oxyopes species in the world, but the actual number is MUCH higher since the African species have not been revised. Most African Oxyopes species were described by Lessert in 1915 and they have not since received any attention. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if there are 290 new species in Africa alone. In South Africa, 26 species are recorded (of which only two species are South African endemics), but that number is probably closer to 100, if not more. Anyone deciding to revise this genus in Africa is going to have their hands full…

Oxyopes (and the family name, Oxyopidae) means “sharp eyed”, from the ancient Greek oxús (sharp) and ṓps (eye). As the name suggests, they have very keen eyesight, and have been observed to grab flying insects in mid-air, or even jump in the air to catch the insect in flight. Sometimes they jump onto flying insects below.

These plant-dwellers, with their very spiny legs, are often very jumpy, and when they feel threatened, they would often hop around like crazy. Many times, however, they just completely freeze, with their front legs raised (like in Robert’s photo). This is most likely not a threat pose, since they never follow up on the threat and just remain frozen like that.

This is Robert’s seventh SOTM (second one in a row), which is three more than the second most frequent winner. From 204 people who voted, his photo received 118 (58%) of the votes, which is 22 votes more than the runner-up. Congratulations, yet again, Robert!