The Mottled Jumper: a new common name for a jumping spider

A couple of weeks ago I set up a poll so that you could help give a jumping spider a common name.  This was all made possible thanks to a series of fun twitter conversations which ultimately led to the list of potential common names for Sitticus fasciger.

Sitticus fasciger, photo by Thomas Shahan, reproduced here with permission.

Sitticus fasciger, photo by Thomas Shahan, reproduced here with permission.

Crowdsourcing a common name received a bit of press (e.g., CBC Homerun, the afternoon radio show in Montreal), and this led to discussions about the process of giving species a common name.  For the record, with about 20,000 described arthropods in Canada, fewer than 1700 have common names (you can refer to the Entomological Society of Canada’s list of common names). There’s a lot of work to do!  There is a committee within the Entomological Society of Canada, and anyone can submit a common name – there is even a fillable form!  However, the common name must make sense, and have some meaning that relates to the species biology, appearance, or life history. A group of experts will evaluate the proposal, and if accepted, a species can receive a common name.  So, after this project with Sitticus fasciger, my work is not done: I will now proceed to get the selected common name officially accepted, and will eventually submit it for approval to the Entomological Society of America, also.

OK, enough of this… what about the poll results?

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Sitticus fasciger: over a hundred people have spoken… and the common name selected is the Mottled Jumper. That name received over 45% of the vote. It is also my personal favourite – mottled refers to irregular arrangement of patches of colour, and is an accurate description of the spider.

In sum, THANKS everyone for taking part – it was a fun project, and hopefully there will be more to come in the future.

Help give this jumping spider a common name

There’s a small brown/grey mottled jumping spider that is very common on the exterior walls of my house. It’s curious, cute, always on the move. A few years ago I identified the species as Sitticus fasciger, a jumping spider known from many parts of Asia, and since the 1950s, from North America. It is now found in Quebec, Ontario, most likely other parts of eastern Canada, Manitoba, and many parts of the USA, west to Missouri.  This species is synanthropic – meaning it lives in close association with humans. More specifically, it’s found most commonly on houses and buildings (at least in the Nearctic).

Sitticus fasciger, photo by Thomas Shahan, reproduced here with permission (see more of his work here!)

Sitticus fasciger, photo by Thomas Shahan, reproduced here with permission (see more of his work here!)

That photo by Thomas Shahan is really stunning, but I must admit that most individuals I have seen are more brown/grey, and less ‘vibrant’ that the photo above. Have a peek at this video of a female (taken at my house) for what I think is more typical coloration:

Little is known about the biology of this lovely little spider – some work by Matsumoto and Chikuni (1987), done in Japan, discusses its life history, and a few nice websites have videos and other summaries of diagnostic characteristics and summaries of its distribution.  (here, by the way, is the original description by Simon).  I’m not certain about the etymology of fasciger. In latin, it refers to a ‘bundle of sticks or rods‘, which is not that informative. As Morgan Jackson points out, in middle Irish it could mean ‘neckband‘ which might refer to some of the coloration on the cephalothorax or abdomen.

This species, however, is lacking a common name, and I seek your help in determining one!

Although there are a lot of opinions about using common names for insects/spiders, I am generally in support of this idea. I think a more general audience likes to use common names, and I think common names can provide a nice context and description that is often missed with a latin name.  The Zebra spider (Salticus scenicus), for example, is a well known cosmopolitan species, and that common names says something about how the spider looks to most people. Similarly, the Dock (or Wharf) spider is a nice common name for Dolomedes tenebrous since a wharf is a very common habitat!  I think it’s a pretty ambitious task to give all species a common name, but I do think more common species should be given a common name.

So, with that introduction, let’s pick a common name for Sitticus fasciger.  I asked for suggestions on twitter, and discussed this topic with a few people. I have set up a poll, below, with some of these suggestions. I’ll leave the poll open for a couple of weeks (until 25 July), and then share the results with you. I will then work to get this name formally accepted by both the Entomological Society of Canada and the Entomological Society of America.