Whole Lotta Lynx

Lynx is plural for lynx (I had to double check). I’ll be writing about 3 lynx. One lynx is not a local. Lynx spiders are active hunters which can be found among grasses and woody shrubs in the day as well as night. The family name is Oxyopidae (pronounced ox-ee-OPP-idee) but lynx is so much easier and fun to say! The lynx I caught are not very large spiders as you can see from the photo, although I’ve read that the green guys (Peucetia viridans) can get up to 22 millimeters measuring from head to end of abdomen – that’s a decent sized spider!

Lynx spiders do not make a capture web. They ambush or actively hunt insects and other spiders. They are fast and really hard to catch! There are 18 species found in North America with most of them found in the south. I found my first lynx spider (P. viridans) while visiting family in Jacksonville, NC. It was next to the garden hanging out on the side of the house in the afternoon. I wouldn’t have noticed it otherwise. It was bright green against white siding. Closer inspection revealed a lot of spines on the legs, a tall head (aka high clypeus in spider speak), and the long, tapered abdomen.

Peucetia viridans2

My notes are very brief on this encounter (summer of 2013) so I assume I released it after taking photos. There is an interesting paper written in 1984 about how the green lynx spider defensively spits venom. I didn’t get to see any of that action with the one I caught. Results of that would have been minor but I would have had a way more interesting summary of the catch!

My second experience with a lynx was in Jefferson Hills, PA at a Memorial Day picnic. My nephew and I were spider hunting in some tall grasses around the house. We zeroed in on a small spider (~6mm) trying its best to HOP away from our capture jar. At first, I thought it was a skinny jumping spider (Salticidae family) because it was hopping, but close up, it had the spiny legs, high clypeus, and tapered abdomen. It did not have huge eyes which are associated with the jumping spider family. The two stripes on it’s face were also an ID clue.

IMG_6778

We had found a female Oxyopes salticus AKA the STRIPED lynx spider! This lady would not crawl like a “normal” spider. It literally hopped and wouldn’t ya know, the species name salticus is from Latin meaning “dancing”. Taking these photos took some patience! I kept the striped lynx for about a month and then had to let her and about 10 other different spiders go. I was leaving for a vacation week and finding someone to feed the spiders while I was away wasn’t as easy as finding someone to feed the cats, so the spiders went back to nature. According the the Spiders of North America ID manual, The striped lynx spider is the most widespread lynx in the family so if you decide to go lynx hunting, chances are this is the one you’ll find! I’d like to catch another one again.

My current lynx spider was found in  South Park, PA at a picnic pavilion back in April. It had rained earlier that afternoon, but the sun came out and I recall it being rather humid. I was chatting with some friends and didn’t even notice the small spider hustling across the picnic table where we were sitting. I was accused of “sleeping on the job” by my more cheeky friend because he saw it first, but I had a vial handy. File_001 (3)

It had all of the same ID markers that I’ve mentioned that relate to the Lynx spider family but I never saw one with this coloration and pattern. I keyed it out to the genus Oxyopes, same as the Striped Lynx, but it was not the same species. Comparable photos via BugGuide.net looked like the Western Lynx spider (O. scalaris). Going by photos is tricky and sometimes unreliable due to the amazing color variation even among the same species so I am not 100% confident with my ID.

I’ve had this lynx since then. It’s molted twice and has grown quite a bit (now at about 6mm). I think it is a female. She lives in a 5.5 oz. Solo container with some twigs and small dried flower heads. There is web around the twigs but I’m guessing it’s from her laying drag line silk while travelling around the same space. She is FUN to watch during feeding time! She has accepted fruit flies, ants, small bottle flies, and moths. All of her movements are quick and frantic, like she’s hollering, “AHHHHHHHH” the whole time. She chases down her prey, pounces, misses, catches herself with her drag line, scrambles back up and lunges again in the other direction. When she catches her victim, she gathers it up with her legs like a spiny glove. She is quick to run out of the container when I open it, too, so I gotta be careful not to lose her.

Lynx spiders are a very cool and colorful family to observe. Remember to look for the tall head, spiny legs, and tapered abdomen, but you do have to catch it first!

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