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The spider family Oxyopidae (lynx spiders) includes 447 described species (Platnick 2013), 18 species of which occur in North America north of Mexico (Brady and Santos 2005). Lynx spiders have a distinctive appearance, although they could be confused in the field with salticids because they occur in some of the same general habitats and exhibit similar jumping behavior. They have an extremely high clypeus and tall chelicerae. The eight eyes are arranged in a distinctive pattern: The anterior median eyes are small, but behind them the remaining six eyes are spread out in a hexagonal shape at the top of the head region. The legs are armed with numerous long, stiff, and conspicuous spines. The abdomen often tapers gradually to a point at the posterior (rear) end. (Bradley 2013)

Brady and Santos (2005) provide an overview of the distribution of lynx spiders in North America north of Mexico: Oxyopes salticus is found from southern Canada to northern Argentina and is frequently associated with disturbed habitats or agroecosystems (Young and Lockley 1985). Oxyopes scalaris is widespread throughout the United States and southern Canada. The remaining species of Oxyopes and Hamataliwa occur in the southern tier of states, with a few of these species reaching northern California and Virginia along the west and east coasts and southern Kansas in the middle of the continent. North American Peucetia are found from the southern United States south to northern South America (Brady 1964; Santos and Brescovit 2003). These three North American genera--Oxyopes, Hamataliwa, and Peucetia—occur around the world, but especially in the tropics and subtropics (Platnick 2013). 

Most Oxyopes species occur in tall grass and herbaceous vegetation. Oxyopes scalaris and Hamataliwa are most often found on woody shrubs and trees. Peucetia prefer tall grass and especially woody shrubs such as Wild Buckwheat (Erigonium fasciculatum) and Dog Fennel (Eupatorium capillifolium). Peucetia viridans and Oxyopes salticus have been reported to be common in agroecosystems and have been suggested as biocontrol agents to control insect pests (Young and Lockley 1985; Nyffeler et al. 1992). (Brady and Santos 2005)

Lynx spiders are "sit-and-wait" predators, but have also been reported to stalk their prey like cats. Although they lack leg scopulae (distinctive hair tufts), the long spines on the front legs function as a sort of "basket" to aid in prey capture. Their characteristic darting movements and tendency to jump repeatedly when disturbed help make lynx spiders generally easy to recognize in the field. They are capable of running and jumping rapidly through dense vegetation when alarmed. (Brady and Santos 2005)

Very little is known about the reproductive behavior of lynx spiders, except that Peucetia males attach a resinous mating plug to the female after copulation (Ramirez et al. [2009] found that these plugs do not necessarily prevent remating). Egg cases are hung within a mesh of silk in Peucetia and are fixed over leaves or twigs in Oxyopes and Hamataliwa. (Brady and Santos 2005)

Work by Taylor and Pfannenstiel (2008) added the lynx spiders to the growing list of spider families known to include plant nectar in their diets. Vasconcellos-Neto et al. (2007) reported that Peucetia lynx spiders tend to be associated with plants bearing glandular hairs, at least in part because their foraging success may be augmented on these sticky surfaces; the plants can also benefit from this association due to the spiders' effective control of herbivores (Romero et al. 2008).

The delineation of Oxyopidae was well established long ago and Brady and Santos (2005) briefly summarize current understanding of the family's phylogenetic position in the spider tree.


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