You mad?


The Girlfriend pointed this out to me, since this one had slipped past my radar, but two recent pics illustrated a trait I had mentioned long ago, in the early days of the blog, back when my readers numbered, well, pretty much as they do now (we won’t talk about those numbers.) These two pics are the same spider, only moments apart. Above, it appears to be glaring, an impression hard to get rid of and something we’re inherently attuned to. But it’s just the pattern on the cephalothorax (‘head’) and the angle I’m shooting from. There was no change of expression, in fact no expression at all nor ability to display such, from the pic below, which seems much less testy – surprised, even.

All of that’s just us, a species that gets a lot from the non-verbal cues of facial expression, which likely served as our primary communication for millions of years. And we’re not the only species; all of the canids and felids use ear and tail positions to express mood, and we’re still learning about many other species. Spiders have their own methods of communication, quite elaborate too, but facial expression is not among them.

We can only speculate about moods and feelings in most animals, and much of this is little more than guesswork. For another jumping spider on the same tree, which was facing away while I wanted more of a portrait angle, I slowly slipped my finger underneath the leaf and loomed threateningly (or so I supposed) in front of it, hoping to cause it to turn away from the finger and thus towards the camera. The spider rudely trashed my impressions as it sprang without hesitation upon my finger and then to the next leaf beyond; I was merely a stepping stone to make the journey a bit easier. And you probably thought we were the only species to exploit others…