For the next five weeks, I will be in Borneo along with a student (Edy Piascik) to find jumping spiders. When I tell people that I look for jumping spiders in tropical forests, they sometimes ask me with fear in their voices: are there spiders that jump? I think they're imagining bizarre tropical spiders pouncing on people. Well, yes, there are jumping spiders, at least 5000 species of them. But, they're far too small to pounce on people, and they live all around the world, including on houses back in my city of Vancouver.

My reason to come to Borneo is to find jumping spiders that live nowhere else. Most biodiversity is local. What you find in Borneo will be different species than what you find in New Guinea, different from Africa, and different from Canada. For jumping spiders, the pattern is particularly striking, because not only are the individual species local, but whole evolutionary groups tend to be local, having evolved and diversified in just one continental area. This means for instance that most South American species are closely related to one another, and not closely related to the species in Australia or Africa. It also means that when you go to an unexplored area, the species you find might not only be new, but very new - distantly related from everything else known.

Good tropical forests in Southeast Asia have been little collected, and Borneo hardly at all. Who knows what strange things we might find? We are excited.

Text and images © W. Maddison, under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license (CC-BY)