Jumping spiders are peeping toms!

I was first introduced to the wonders of spiders in 1980, when I took a course in sensory physiology from Mike Land, who, if you know his work, is a world-class expert in eyes and vision and optics and comparative physiology. We mainly worked on jumping spiders in that lab because you could just walk outside in the Oregon spring and catch lots of them on the walls of the science buildings.

One of the cool things we learned is that jumping spiders have unusual eye anatomy. Their eyes aren’t spherical, they’re tube-shaped, and they actually function like a Galilean telescope. That’s right, jumping spiders are looking at you through a telescope — they can see things far away relatively clearly. These spiders can look up and see the stars.

We did various experiments on spider vision back then, but one thing we lacked was a spider with a transparent carapace, so we did everything with indirect behavioral and optical methods. This little video would have blown our minds.

We dissected a few spiders and could clearly see the tube-like structure, but that didn’t communicate the dynamic activity of those little telescope eyes at all.


  1. Silentbob says

    Great. Spiders with telescopes for eyes Could you make them any more creepy?
    I await news of spiders with frickin laser beams attached to their heads.

  2. birgerjohansson says

    You have to go back in time a bit to find laser raptors and other laser creatures (see Kung Fury).

  3. birgerjohansson says

    If those spiders learn to jump through multiverse dimensions, we are done for.

  4. StevoR says

    Whoah. Well that’s got simple BI-nocular vision beat.. Freaky clip. Very cool.

    Tangential but there’s no real equivalent of Peeping Tom for women (Peeping Tanya?) is there.. ?

  5. blf says

    The mildly deranged penguin asserts those structures are not telescopes, not microscopes, and not even optical devices (such as eyes). They are, she claims, gravity-wave sensors, searching for a signal from Teh Great Star Spider, to shred off their disguises and commence. Commence what has never been discovered or explained, just… commence.

  6. PaulBC says

    I’m tempted to go for a pun about a “web telescope” but jumping spiders don’t make webs as far as I know.

  7. StevoR says

    If eyes like such spiders we had
    How well woudl we see the night skies?
    Down to what magnitude stars might we see?
    How clearly?

  8. macallan says


    If those spiders learn to jump through multiverse dimensions, we are done for.

    How do you think they got here?

    Also, Hackerman to the rescue!

  9. Walter Solomon says

    StevoR @5

    there’s no real equivalent of Peeping Tom for women (Peeping Tanya?) is there.. ?

    Was she peeping at the far less famous husband of Lady Godiva, Lord Godiva?

  10. unclefrogy says

    well that helps to understand there behavior when out on a hunt. It is not just random crawling around there is a lot of moving a little then stopping and scanning around for prey and moving in that direction.
    It makes sense that they would need to see at a distance the how is pretty amazing and I can even see how that might have developed.
    Other kinds of spiders like orb weavers do not see at a distance nor do they need too I take it. what came first in spider eyes do we know? Do fossil spiders have enough detail to tell?

  11. René says

    What never ceases to amaze me, is that nature succeeded in evolving see-through meat. I also wonder how it is oxiginated.
    Having said that, where is the jumping spider’s retina? IOW, where is a spider’s homunarachculus??

  12. René says

    Let me add. Whenever considering a jumping spider’s head with its many eyes, I see a command deck (or War Room) with as many commanding officers. I suspect jumping spiders to suffer from DID, formerly known as MPD.

  13. jimzy says

    Do they ever accidentally clash their eye-tubes together? Does it make them dizzy or make them see stars? If they do see stars from clashing their eye-tubes together, do they know they’re not real stars?

  14. christoph says

    @Silentbob, # 2: Check out the Slaver Sunflowers in Larry Niven’s “Known Space” series.

  15. tuatara says

    I love these little guys. I often find these and other jumping species at my place. Found one on a banana in the fruit bowl a couple of weeks ago. I took some close ups of it with my phone, which happens to capture 2 seconds of video with almost every shot I take. I took a closer a closer look at the short clips after seeing this and yeah, they show this ‘eye’ movement quite clearly in a couple of them too.

    This sure helps to explain some of their behaviour.

  16. wzrd1 says

    Huh, Morehouse thinks that the red sensing retinal cell can switch to sense green, plus the UV sensing cell, which would give the spider trichromatic vision.

    Other writings suggest that its light sensitivity is sufficient to see the moon and possibly Andromeda.