I found the most curious spider at Waipu Caves. It had the definite shape and movements of a jumping spider, from two large luminous eyes to bounding around while I tried to photograph it. But it also definitely had six legs.
I managed to lure the spider out into the sun, hoping to figure out where the two extra legs were. But even in the light, there were still only six legs – the two fuzzy things at the front are the pedipalps, part of the spider’s mouthparts.
Baffled by this mystery and enchanted by the brilliant peridot-green of the spider’s abdomen, I took a few more shots. We don’t have much in the way of internet access out here, so figuring out whether there is indeed a six-legged spider species in New Zealand will have to wait.
Update: I did some research and this isn’t a spiffy spider species that sports only six legs. It’s an unfortunate individual of the Trite genus (insert joke about the name lacking originality here), probably Trite planiceps (although it looks closer to this unidentified Trite species). These spiders normally come with eight legs, but this individual had his/her front two leg torn off, likely from an encounter with a predator or in a territorial battle with another spider. You can even see the stump of one leg to the left of the chelicerae and pedipalps in photos 2 and 4 above. Ouch.
Thankfully, these spiders frequently lose their front limbs and carry on with their normal lives in terms of hunting and survival. But they do have some worse luck in fighting battles against other spiders and in mating – there’s a whole thesis on it here.