Two new species of strikingly-patterned peacock spiders have been discovered in southeast Queensland by a graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley. One, nicknamed “Sparklemuffin” bears colorful red and blue markings and appears similar to three previously identified species of peacock spider, while the other—”Skeletorus”—features skeleton-esque black and white markings, the likes of which have never been seen before.
Maratus sceletus (or, Skeletorus)
The tiny (0.1 to 0.3 inches) peacock spiders are known for their bright, colorful markings, and the somewhat comedic, flamboyant dance rituals that they embark on when trying to attract a mate. Madeline Girard, a graduate student who specializes in the study of these arachnids, discovered these two previously unknown species in Queensland and approached local entomologist Dr Jurgen Otto.
The two embarked on further study of the creatures, with Otto partnering with David Hill to author a paper on the new discovery. Sparklemuffin gained the official name Maratus jactatus, in reference to the jolting motion it made during its mating dance, which you can view here. Skeletorus has been named Maratus sceletus and has become the greatest source of curiosity to the researchers.
Speaking to Live Science, Otto described that “When [the male] got within a few centimeters of the female, he exploded into a firework of activity… 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.”
And with no other peacock spiders with his markings known to exist, Otto believes that we have still only just scratched the surface in our knowledge and understanding of these extraordinary, tiny creatures: “I can’t help feeling that… nature has quite a few more surprises in store.”
Via Live Science
Images © Jurgen Otto