Portia – The Intelligent Hunter

16 April 2011
The Portia is a Jumping Spider. It stands apart from the rest with it’s ability to learn and resolve problems in the process. When used in it’s hunting tactics, it proves to be a formidable predator.

Identifying a Portia
A Portia bears an excellent camouflage, mimicking fragments of leaf litter detritus. Like other Jumping Spiders, the 2 largest eyes grants excellent vision for identifying it’s prey. The hind legs of a Portia would typically be perched behind and high above the other legs.

The Hunter
The Portia thrives on aggressive mimicry – a born actor. It targets web-weaving spiders by tugging on their webs, imitating the vibration patterns of a trapped prey or a male ready to mate. This attracts the host of the web to come investigate, often into the preying jaws of the Portia. It uses a myriad of attack tactics on different prey, sometimes learning from trial and error.

Pronouncing the name… Portia!?
Some called it Por-tee-ya, while the name itself is often pronounced Por-sha, like the Australian actress Portia de Rossi. I would personally go for the latter. Anyone with confirmation?

Today’s trip to Mandai was a short, really short walk. That’s because we spent most of our time with 2 different Portias!

The first Portia was the White-Moustached Portia (Portia labiata). We found it hanging on a thread of web, and could very likely be on it’s way to prey on another spider. It did a free-fall as we approached it, but we had a leaf below and managed to observe the little fella from close-up!

Jumping Spider (Portia sp.) - DSC_5600#1 White-Moustached Portia (Portia labiata) dons a distinct moustache below it’s 2 front eyes

Jumping Spider (Portia sp.) - DSC_5607#2 It’s body forms a jagged outline, mimicking little bits of leaf detritus

Jumping Spider (Portia sp.) - DSC_5646#3 Curiously looking at my camera, wonder if it is sizing my lens up as prey?

Jumping Spider (Portia sp.) - DSC_5683#4 View from above, this had a missing palp and some missing legs. The hind leg is neatly tucked to the back.

Jumping Spider (Portia sp.) - DSC_5725#5 The white moustache looks yellowish, an old warrior probably

Jumping Spider (Portia sp.) - DSC_5744#6 Bald patches can be seen on this fella, must’ve been through many battles

Jumping Spider (Portia sp.) - DSC_5794#7 Look right… notice the cute “ears”!

Jumping Spider (Portia sp.) - DSC_5803#8 Look left…

Jumping Spider (Portia sp.) - DSC_5801#9 Finally looking at me, albeit for just a split second

While we were about to place the first Portia back on the first plant, another one hopped by! This looks like a male. We were wondering if it had been attracted to the female we were fussing over earlier?!

It landed on one of our flash diffusers, so we were content with shooting it there and then, as a storm was already brewing above our heads.

Jumping Spider (Portia sp.) - DSC_5804#10 This angle shows the distinct hind legs being tucked behind

Jumping Spider (Portia sp.) - DSC_5811#11 View from behind

Jumping Spider (Portia sp.) - DSC_5820#12 Side view!

Jumping Spider (Portia sp.) - DSC_5824#13 View of the front

Jumping Spider (Portia sp.) - DSC_5828#14 Can’t get enough of this guy

Jumping Spider (Portia sp.) - DSC_5838#15 Final close-up before we packed up to go. We could literally hear the rain fallling!

Some other shots of the day, some taken while the rest were focused on the Portia.

Squash Bug (Coreidae) - DSC_5734#16 A stink bug landed on Glenn’s head. Will it stink???

Leaf Footed Bug? - DSC_5481#17 Leaf-footed Bug with morning dew

Leaf Footed Bug? - DSC_5486#18 Zooming in to the morning dew!

Jumping Spider (Salticidae) - DSC_5507#19 A jumping spider pops by

Jumping Spider (Salticidae) - DSC_5505#20 Really cute, it stared up at me to reveal a really SQUARE head!

Jumping Spider (Salticidae) - DSC_5513#21 Still staring at me, nibbling with it’s tiny jaws

DSC_5518#22 Baby robberfly with prey

DSC_5533#23 Took my time to compose a brighter shot, but the prey had already been dropped

Caterpillar - DSC_5559#24 Viewing a hairy caterpillar against the sky and canopy of Mandai. Had more morning dew initially, but I spent over half an hour fussing over the robberfly before coming back and finding most of the dew dried up!

Jumping Spider (Salticidae) - DSC_5566#25 Final shot of a jumping spider

A lucky day indeed.. 2 portias! Others might have waited years without spotting any at all.

The complete album can be viewed here.



Hi my name is Nicky Bay. I am a macro photographer, instructor and book author, travelling the world to document the vast micro biodiversity that nature has to offer. Follow my updates and discover with me the incredible beauty and science behind our planet's micro creatures!

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