In jumping spiders, both the book lungs and the tracheal system are well-developed. The tracheal system consists of four thick primary tracheae that branch into small secondary tracheae, some of them ending in the opisthosoma and others entering the prosoma. We used stereological morphometric methods to investigate the morphological diffusing capacity of the lungs and of the walls of the secondary tracheae ('lateral diffusing capacity') of two groups of Salticus scenicus with mean body masses of 2.69 mg (group A) and 5.28 mg (group B). The thickness of the gas-exchange epithelium of the lungs was 0.164 microm (group A) and 0.186 microm (group B) for the total diffusion barrier. The secondary tracheae were divided arbitrarily into seven classes according to their inner diameter (1-7 microm). The diffusion barriers of the tracheal walls tend to be thinnest (0.17 and 0.18 microm) for the smallest tracheae, the walls of the other tracheal classes having approximately the same thickness of diffusion barrier (0.24-0.32 microm). The calculated oxygen-diffusing capacity (D(O(2))) for the lungs was 16.4 microl min(-1) g(-1) kPa(-1) for group A and 12 microl min(-1) g(-1) kPa(-1) for group B; the D(O(2)) of the walls of all secondary tracheae was 5.91 microl min(-1) g(-1) kPa(-1) for group A animals and 6.63 microl min(-1) g(-1) kPa(-1) for group B animals. Our results are consistent with the hypothesis that the tracheal system plays an important role in gas exchange in jumping spiders. Resting and low-activity oxygen consumption rates can be met by the lungs or the tracheae alone, while high oxygen demands can be met only if both respiratory systems are working together. Tracheae entering the prosoma have only 4-10 % of the total tracheal diffusing capacity, thus providing sufficient oxygen for the nervous system but not being able to prevent muscle fatigue. The similar thickness of the walls of all tracheal classes is consistent with the hypothesis that the secondary tube tracheae function as 'tracheal lungs', supplying the haemolymph and organs by lateral diffusion.