7 new species of colorful Peacock Spider join the dance party
A super-keen 22-year-old Australian spider enthusiast has identified and named seven new species of extraordinary Peacock Spider in the Maratus genus. Famed for their psychedelic color schemes and funky courtship dances, they're a visual feast for arachnophiles and arachnophobes alike.
Joseph Schubert's findings in the last 12 months bring the total number of Peacock Spider species he's described to 12, as he put forth five in 2019. His fascination with these spunky little fellas has already earned him the incredibly unimaginative nickname "Spider-Man" around the offices of Museums Victoria, which, in conjunction with Bush Blitz, has funded his spider-finding missions around Australia.
Peacock spiders are tiny and harmless, measuring about 5 mm (1/5th of an inch) long. To the naked eye, they look like little brown specs hopping around. But under a microscope, or at the business end of a macro lens, their outrageously bright and beautiful coloring becomes visible, and their erratic movements can come to be seen for what they are: courtship dances.
Displaying their wildly vibrant and intricately detailed abdomens vertically, much like the peacocks they're named for, these little guys hop, strut and strike lurid poses to attract partners, raising their "arms" like bodybuilders and shaking their little butts for all they're worth. To understand what makes them such charmers, dip into the video below.
The new species hail primarily from Western Australia: Maratus azureus, Maratus constellatus, Maratus laurenae, Maratus noggerup, and Maratus suae. Maratus volpei joins the party from South Australia, and Maratus inaquosus from Victoria. Schubert drew on various inspirations for the names, including the spiders' coloration, locality, or sometimes simply in honor of the fellow enthusiasts that brought them to his attention.
Schubert's favorite? "I would have to say Maratus constellatus is my favorite by far – it’s such a nice looking species, the pattern reminds me of The Starry Night by Van Gogh. Plus I traveled a very, very long way to find it!"
The young arachnologist believes that with the rate these new species are being discovered, there's a ton more yet to be found, and he's looking forward to describing and naming many more in the coming years.
Source: Museums Victoria