Two Spectacular New Peacock Spiders Discovered in Queensland

Male Maratus jactatus / J├╝rgen Otto
Janet Fang 27 Feb 2015, 00:06

Two new species of peacock spiders have been discovered in southern Queensland. This dazzling group of fuzzy, googly-eyed spiders are so-named for their flashy hues and rockin’ courtship moves. One of the new species is black and white, the other’s got blue and red stripes—and their nicknames are Skeletorus and Sparklemuffin!!

Specifically, these two are the latest addition to the calcitrans group of peacock spiders. Until now, this group had an exclusive membership of just three. Like most others in this small group, males of these new species inflate their two pairs of silk-spinning organs (called spinnerets) during courtship dances. The males also display a flap-like body part (called a fan) that’s adorned with bold patterns, Live Science explains, and they’ll raise a single leg to show off for females. Both new spiders were discovered and adorably nicknamed by Madeline Girard from the University of California, Berkeley, together with a friend at Wondul Range National Park back in September of 2013. 

"Despite the large number of species we have discovered just in the last few years, I can't help feeling that we may have just scratched the surface of this most exciting group of spiders, and that nature has quite a few more surprises in store," entomologist and photographer Jürgen Otto tells Live Science. Otto co-authored the paper on the new peacock spiders with David Hill, editor of Peckhamia where the two new species are described. 

Maratus jactatus males (pictured above) have bold reds and iridescent blues on the posterior part of their bodies, and they range from 4.5 to 4.6 millimeters in length, not including spinnerets. “Jactatus” means rocking or jolting in Latin, and it refers to the very rapid lateral rocking used in the males’ courtship display. Here’s a female Maratus jactatus with her young offspring:

 

Maratus sceletus males (pictured below) have vivid white markings on an otherwise solid black body, giving it the appearance of a Halloween costume. “Sceletus” is Latin for skeleton. The males ranged from 3.7 to 4.2 millimeters in length, not including spinnerets.

"When [the male] got within a few centimeters of the female, he exploded into a firework of activity," Otto tells Live Science. "The spinnerets were extended and flicked around at an amazing speed, one of the legs was flexed like he wanted to show off his muscles, and he moved constantly from one side of the grass blade to the other."

Images: Jürgen Otto

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