Some of us may see spiders as creepy-crawly invaders of the home, however, arachnids are fascinating creatures once one gets over that initial hair-raising factor. Take these newly discovered peacock spider species in Australia -- Maratus sceletus and Maratus jactatus -- which the researchers have creatively named "Skeletorus" and "Sparklemuffin," thanks to their vivid colours and mesmerizing mating dances, which actually create palpable vibrations that the female spiders can feel.
So what do these spider dances look like? Here's a video of Maratus jactatus (click on the link "post" to see it on Facebook), native to the coasts of Western Australia, rhythmically raising its arms and a flat part of its body called a "fan," via entomologist Jürgen Otto, who co-authored the report on the new species:
Seen over at Live Science, these two new species Maratus sceletus ("Skeletorus") and Maratus jactatus ("Sparklemuffin") were discovered in southeast Queensland by Madeline Girard, a graduate student at the University of California. She speaks in this SciFri video about the work recording and researching the variety of dances that peacock spiders perform:
While Sparklemuffin looks quite similar to three other previously known peacock spider species, Skeletorus -- nicknamed for its distinctive black and white markings -- has patterning that has never been seen before, says Otto:
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.
Otto, who first stumbled on peacock spiders back in 2005, has been photographing and filming them as a hobby since that first initial captivating encounter with this special spider. Otto describes how Skeletorus' dance happens:
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.
(Click on the link "post" to see it on Facebook):
Surprisingly, we've known about peacock spiders since the 1800's, but it's only recently that scientists have focused attention on these small but spectacular arachnids, which measure between 3 and 7 millimeters (0.1 to 0.3 inches) long. Otto explains that his "hope [is] that these videos [will start] a revolution that will see us loving spiders instead of hating them." Indeed, who can hate a spider so adorable as Sparklemuffin?