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Southern Spiders #2: The Green Lynx

Green Lynx Spider (Peucetia viridans)
Family: Oxyopidae

Lynx spiders (family Oxyopidae) are some of my favorites.  They’re big, charismatic, and colorful.  The family is a distinctive one with only 3 genera and 18 species in North America.  Lynx spiders have prominent, long, straight spines on the legs, and a characteristic hexagonal arrangement of the eyes (which is somewhat visible in the second image below).

During my recent South Carolina field work, I frequently found the Green Lynx Spider (common throughout the south) on vegetation in open pine savannas and meadows.  These sit-and-wait predators do not spin a web, but use their long forelegs to capture prey items.

Green Lynx Spider (Peucetia viridans) on Yellow-fringed Orchid (Platanthera ciliaris)

Late summer is the mating season for these spiders. Females build egg sacs, which they attach to the plant substrate, sometimes protecting the egg sac by constructing a tied-leaf shelter around it (Willey & Adler 1989). Some, but not all, females guard the egg sac against predation until the young emerge (about 2 weeks). Spiderlings emerge from the egg sacs in autumn and overwinter as early instars, before reaching maturity the following season (at around 300 days).

Eye arrangement and leg spines of Lynx Spiders (Oxyopidae)

Lynx Spiders feed on both herbivorous insects and pollinating insects, so the benefit to a flowering plant of hosting the spider is unclear, with reductions in herbivory potentially offset by reductions in pollination and fruit set. Some species of Peucetia in the neotropics live and forage exclusively on plants that bear glandular trichomes.  Studies indicate that when prey is scarce, the spiders eat dead insects that adhere to the sticky trichomes.  The presence of the spider reduces rates of herbivory on the host plant without having a significant impact on pollination (Romero et al. 2008).  Thus, the relationship is thought to be a facultative mutualism.  Studies of the Green Lynx Spider, however, indicate that Hymenoptera and Diptera (potential pollinators) are the most frequently consumed prey items (Randall 1982, Willey & Adler 1989), and that the spiders often forage on plant blossoms, so this species may not improve fitness of its host plant.  Indeed, my observations of the species in the field have been primarily on blossoms, where it might be expected that pollinating flies and wasps would be the chief prey.

Green Lynx Spider (Peucetia viridans) on Starry Rosinweed (Silphium asteriscus)

References Cited:

Randall, J.B. 1982. Prey Records of the Green Lynx Spider, Peucetia viridans (Hentz) (Araneae, Oxyopidae). Journal of Arachnology 10(1): 19-22.

Romero, G.Q., J.C. Souza, and J. Vasconcellos-Neto. 2008. Anti-herbivore protection by mutualistic spiders and the role of plant glandular trichomes. Ecology 89(11): 3105-3115.

Willey, M.B. and P.H. Adler. 1989. Biology of Peucetia viridans (Araneae, Oxyopidae) in South Carolina, with Special Reference to Predation and Maternal Care. Journal of Arachnology 17(3): 275-284.


16 comments to Southern Spiders #2: The Green Lynx

  • That’s a fascinating looking spider!

  • Excellent photos. It’s not everyone who can photograph a lynx spider on a beautifully contrasting fringed orchid and not mention the orchid.

    • Thanks Doug! I do what I can with my little Canon point-and-shoot. Hoping/planning to get a DSLR with a good macro lens one of these days soon. I did identify the orchid in the photo title that pops up when you mouse over the image, but in case anyone missed that, it’s Yellow-fringed Orchid, Platanthera ciliaris, a large, striking orchid of pine savannas and flatwoods. The pale orange color is not very common in nature, so I really enjoyed catching several of these in peak bloom. Wow! I just found another image of the same species combination on Flickr here, this one taken in South Carolina also.

  • Lauren Morgens

    That is one cool spider! I love the top photo–the way the front two legs of the spider sort of flow straight into the ‘fringes’ of the orchid. What a picture!

  • Susan

    found a yellow egg sac with small orange eggs inside on the back of a dead oak leaf on the ground. Possible lynx pier eggs?

    • Susan – I’ve never seen the egg sac of this species, but from my understanding it would typically be attached to a plant or small shrub. I expect if it was on the ground, it might be more likely to be a wolf spider, but that is just a guess! Thanks for reading!

  • Susan and Matthew:

    A spider egg sac without the mother attached would not be that of a wolf spider. Wolf spiders carry the egg sac about attached to the mother’s spinerets, and then, when the spiderlings emerge, they ride around on the mother’s abdomen for a while. I’ve heard several people recount that their most frightening spider encounter was stepping on a large wolf spider to kill it, only to have dozens of tiny wolf spiders flee in every direction from their oozing mother’s corpse — Good stuff for an entomo-horror flick! Anyway, without further description of the egg sac’s shape and size, hard to be sure, but if the sac was flat and satiny looking, perhaps that of a gnaphosid running spider or relative.

    • Thanks James! Had I thought a little harder, I would have remembered that! I’ve always seen wolf spiders and fishing spiders carrying the egg sac. In fact, I once had the good fortune of capturing a female fishing spider with an egg sac (to rear in captivity for a college project), then having a mantisfly emerge from the sac! Amazing! Thanks for the correction, and thanks for reading.

  • Wow that sure it an amazing looking spider! I am a big spider fan but have never seen a spider like that – it looks almost alien-like with that fantastic green colouration.

  • bobert

    i have a few of these spiders in my (medical) canabis plants over in my yard. are these spiders bad for plants?

    • Sorry for the slow reply, but no, they wouldn’t be bad for your plants at all. They are predatory, so they might actually help by eating some of the insects that might be feeding on the plants.

  • JT

    I was searching for info on egg sac color variation in this species and came across this post. We have many green lynx to observe here in So. California. The egg sac is typically tan colored, shaped like a rounded bowl with a lid and possessing numerous spiky projections. The sacs are lodged (more than attached) in the shrub-tops and always (in our experience) tended by the female. The female produces a messy tangle of web sometimes curling under a leaf or two. She will move the egg sac from time to time; I suspect this is often in response to temperature. One spider this year produced a distinctly yellow sac, hence the search for info. Love these spiders!

  • Carla Jackson

    I have a great picture of one of these I took yesterday. Would love to share it

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