White-Banded Fishing Spider

The white-banded fishing spider, Dolomedes albineus, is named for a light or white “moustache” which is sometimes found just above its chelicerae, on its clypeus (roughly its “face”). This individual does not display the white band, but it does have the many bristly setae (hairs) on its legs, and the forest-green coloration which mark it as D. albineus and not one of the sister species in the genus.

Fishing spiders in general spend most of their time hanging out near water, with their legs spread out to detect vibrations. It’s a very distinctive stance. If you see a spider with its legs spread out evenly, pressed flat against a surface, it’s probably a fishing spider. The fine hairs on their bodies and legs are hydrophobic, repelling water. This phenomenon, with the delightful name of cuticular hydrophobicity, allows fishing spiders to walk on the surface tension of water to hunt. Unlike other members of the genus, D. albineus is often found away from water, with the Wikipedia article actually referring to it as tree-dwelling. This one was on a boardwalk handrail, several feet away from any water.

This individual was about 20mm across (about the size of an American quarter dollar) — relatively small for a fishing spider. Some of the other Dolomedes spiders get up to 3″ across!

One of my favorite parts of photographing spiders is that they are absolutely aware that you are looking at them through the weird black circle in the sky. There’s nothing like blowing up a photo of what looked like a neutral, chilling spider and finding it looking right at you.

While researching this identification I came across this adorable photo of a white-banded fishing spider, which makes it look like Emmet Otter from Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas, and it made me happy.

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