Taxonomy and evolution
The genus was established in 1878 by German arachnologist Friedrich Karsch. The fringed jumping spider (Portia fimbriata) is the type species.
Molecular phylogeny, a technique that compares the DNA of organisms to construct the tree of life, indicates that Portia is a member of a basal clade (i.e. quite similar to the ancestors of all jumping spiders), and that the Spartaeus, Phaeacius, and Holcolaetis genera are its closest relatives.
Wanless divided the genus Portia into two species groups: the schultzi group, in which males' palps have a fixed tibial apophysis; and the kenti group, in which the apophysis of each palp in the males has a joint separated by a membrane. The schultzi group includes P. schultzi, P. africana, P. fimbriata, and P. labiata.
At least some species of Portia are in the state of reproductive isolation: in a laboratory, male P. africana copulated with female P. labiata but no eggs were laid; during all cases the female P. labiata twisted and lunged in an attempt to bite.:435-466
Some specimens found trapped in Oligocene amber were identified as related to Portia.