These vibrant jumping spiders see rainbows and woo in color

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Jumping spider

credit: Thomas Shahan

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Unique to the spider world, candy-colored jumping spiders can see in color and use that advantage to attract the ladies.

If you've ever seen footage of the dancing peacock spiders, you know how unspeakably unique they are. They are crazy candy-colored and perform choreography that would be at home in any modern dance company.

But aside from their disco moves, it's the color that is so unique about them – when you think of spiders, they are almost exclusively drab in tone. Now a University of Cincinnati biologist, Nate Morehouse, has taken a look into the (many) eyes of spiders from two groups of Salticidae (jumping spiders) to glimpse a better understanding.

"It's rare to see bright colors on most spiders, as they don't usually have the visual sensitivity to perceive color beyond drab blues, greens and browns," says Morehouse. "But certain groups of jumping spiders deviate from this pattern."

"They not only possess a unique ability to see reds, yellows and oranges, but the males display those same bright colors on the exterior of their faces and other body parts [that] they use in their elaborate courtship dances."

The two spiders he studied are the Habronattus jumping spiders of North America and the Maratus “peacock” jumping spiders of Australia. They are both ladybug-sized and remarkable.

Both of the spiders boast the colors, while the peacock spiders bring more to the party with their elaborately decorative abdomen flap that they wave up and down like some sexy semaphoring Valentino. Both are colorful, and both sexes of both groups possess the ability to see those colors. Afterall, why would a make spider go to such lengths to display his technicolor parts when courting if the intended female was unable to see it?

The Habronattus spiders have a ruby red filter in the middle of their retinas which enables them to see the colors; the peacock spiders see color through ultraviolet, blue, green and red sensitive cells within their eyes, which is most similar to birds, reports UC Magazine.

It's fascinating and you can read more about the research and mechanics of the color vision phenomenon here. And you can watch the crazy moves of a male Maratus speciosus (Coastal peacock spider) in the video below. On the following pages are more images of these pretty little creatures.

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