Peacock Spider – colorful, crazy, and charismatic

Why would you want to know about newly found specie of spiders? Well, what if you were told that the spider in question sports the colors more suited to a peacock, dances like there’s no tomorrow, and mates unlike any other species, you might kindle some interest. The spider being referred to here is the Peacock Spider, more technically known as Maratus avibus. Before we venture deeper into discussing the craziness of this spider, let us hover over the background of the species of this family of creatures. Statistics from Wired, a hot and happening blog of the latest from the world, claim that 80% of multi-cellular organism species on earth are made up by arthropods, which include spiders, insects, and their relatives. Just in 2013, as many as 500 insect and spider species were discovered and talked about. However, no discovery was as ‘colorful’ as that of the Peacock Spider, in quite the literal sense of the word.

What’s the entire buzz about the Maratus avibus, the Peacock Spider?

Well, you might want to have a look at how the spider appears before repeating the question.

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Undoubtedly, the Peacock Spider is the cutest creature to have shown up on the lenses of wildlife photographers and researchers in 2013. Its unmatched colorful look is backed with several interesting aspects of its behavior. Don’t be fooled by the perspective of the picture shown above; the Peacock Spider is among the tiniest creatures you’ll ever see. With a measly size of 6 mm, these Australian spiders can be easily missed if you blink too often, or have an insufficient camera in your hands.

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Jurgen Otto, thankfully, has leverages his keen eye and ultra smart equipment to click some pretty expressive pictures of the Peacock Spider in action.

Knowing the male and female Peacock Spider better

The males of this species are equipped with a couple of flaps on their abdomens, which they extend out to attract a female, with mating on their minds! That’s remarkably similar to how peacocks flutter their tails. Moreover, these abdominal flaps are pretty dazzlingly colored in bright shades. The female spiders of this species are, almost strangely, somewhat toned down in their aesthetics. Dull, dreary, and brown – that’s pretty much as grand a description as can be done for the female Peacock Spiders.
Although these spiders are categorized as jumping spiders, they don’t actually have much areal behavior to exhibit, as has been explained thoroughly in ‘Debunking an urban myth: The jumping spider Maratus cannot fly!’ a masterful work by Julianne M. Waldock.

The coolest spider?

When approaching a female for courtship, the male Peacock Spider raises his abdomen vertically, and accompanies that with actions like raising the third legs and extending the shiny flaps. This is when sheer entertainment begins, as the spider springs into a cool little dance. The vibrating tail and legs, the side to side dancing motion, and way in which the spider rolls his body on coming closer to the female spider – all make for great ingredients of an impressive dance.

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In a creature without a backbone, and size less than a centimeter, the exhibition of such complex ritualized behavior is baffling to say the least. Jurgen Otto, the noted wildlife photographer, discussed in an interview with the LiceScience blog, of how the expressive nature of the spider in terms of the way it dances while approaching the female for courtship, and then mating, has been able to mitigate the fear of spiders from the hearts and minds of many people across the globe.

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