The Phidippus genus encompasses at least 60 different species, including several that are often used in behavioral studies. For example, my research primarily focuses on the foraging and learning behaviors of Phidippus audax.
|Phidippus audax from Bugguide.net|
Other commonly studied species include P. clarus, P. johnsoni, and P. princeps. While most of the work on this genus consists of natural history descriptions out of Dr. Robert Jackson's lab, much of the more recent work has been conducted by Dr. Beth Jakob’s lab where the focus is on vision and visual processing.
|Phidippus clarus from Wikipedia.org|
|Phidippus johnsoni from Wikipedia.org|
|Phidippus princeps from Bugguide.net|
Phidippus are unusually bulky for salticids, giving them the appearance of being rather short-legged. Unlike some of their more slender cousins, Phidippus often remind me of tiny tanks when they are cruising around in search of a prey item. While they are still quite capable of pouncing on potential prey items, they tend to do so from a distance of only 1-2 body lengths, rather than the 4+ body lengths a Habronattus or Lysomannes might jump.
|Habronattus agilis from Bugguide.net|
One of the defining features of Phidippus are their iridescent chelicerae. This unique character makes field identification of this genus considerably easier than some of their more cryptic cousins. In addition to aiding in id, they are also very colorful and can be red, orange, green, blue, and even purple!
|Phidippus audax chelicerae by Thomas Shahan|
Like virtually all salticids, they are cursorial (wandering hunters) and do not spin webs for prey capture. As such, you may catch a glimpse of these tiny predators on the hunt. As Robert Jackson says, the often look like “tiny eight-legged cats” when on the prowl.
Finally, if you see one of these spiders, I highly recommend you take a minute or two and watch their behaviors; they could even be watching you!