We found an interesting spider on the side of the shed:
We didn’t know what it was but felt sure it had to be called a Zebra Spider which indeed it is. Its a jumping spider, the Common Zebra Spider, Salticus scenicus.
I’ve just bought a really good field guide of spiders:
In this book, I discover that there are 670 British spider species which is a number that surprised me. So many. I was previously only aware of the commoner species of house spiders – there were so many of these in my childhood home because the house was old and my mother was too tender-hearted to eject them.
But this smallish Zebra Spider is a jumping spider. It sits on sunny vertical surfaces hunting for prey, which it jumps on, sometimes from a considerable distance away. In order to facilitate this, the spider has quite amazing eyes. It has four forward facing ones with the central ones much larger than those on either side. The other four eyes (yes, eight in total!) are on the top of its thorax.
The large eyes at the front are highly developed and can judge accurately the required jumping distance to get to its prey. The other eyes watch out for any movement to spot the prey in the first place.
I feel sure that, wherever man was evolving, there must have been poisonous spiders to be afraid of and that natural-selection-based fear has been written into my DNA because I have a deep-rooted horror of them that is unjustified in the UK. However, I am able to override this when the spider is small and interesting like this one.