7 New Peacock Spider Species

They're fuzzy and furry, colourful and rhythmic, super tiny but super noticeable… meet my loveable friends - the Peacock Spiders. If you do have a spider phobia then perhaps these are the kind that could convert you!

The Peacock Spiders are a group of tiny arachnids that are best known for their stunning, vibrant colours as well as their sprightly courtship dances… and so is born their name out of the showy, fan-tailed proud peacock connotations. Until recently, there were 41 Peacock Spider Sub-Species but researchers have added 7 more to the group - exciting I know!

Researchers found the fantastic 7 in Western Australia and South Australia, bringing the total number of the known Maratus species to 48. The spiders in this genus measure on average about 4 to 5 millimetres in length, with females generally being a bit larger than the males. The females that belong to this genus tend to have different shades of brown as their colouration, whereas the males boast dramatic, eye-catching colours. Colours and patterns are displayed on the males' abdomens, frequently on a "fan”; a flat structure that is lifted up toward the female during the male's courtship performance - hence Peacock.

In one of the newfound species (Maratus bubo), the males bear a particularly striking pattern, in dazzling shades of red and blue. According to study author Jürgen Otto, the vibrant patterning reminded him of an owl's face, inspiring the name "bubo" after the genus for horned owls. What a cool job, discovering and naming new species!

Another new kid on the block is Maratus tessellatus; not as colourful as its cousins, but performs incredibly nifty ”footwork" during its courtship dance. Otto noted that the Maratus tessellatus is not able to lift its abdomen as its extended family and so resorts to speed to make an impression on interested females.

Just like myself, Otto’s love of spiders began in childhood as it often does; which, as you know is why I do the job I do! It wasn't until Otto moved to Sydney and happened upon his first peacock spider "just hopping in my path" in 2005 that he developed an all-consuming interest in the group. He currently houses hundreds of them in various life stages in his home for scientific observation and photography (he obviously has a forgiving wife). "I do nothing else," he said. "All my spare time is devoted to the spiders." I love this man - you can find some of his photography work on Flickr too.

The photos are merely a snapshot of the time he spends photographing him, with Otto estimated that he has shot hundreds of thousands of photos of Peacock Spiders over the years. This sounds ridiculous, but with the discovery of new species, it’s important to record as much information as possible and the best way to do this is to capture images of living animals - interesting when working with tiny, nippy and stealthy spiders! Otto has claimed that they often seem oblivious to the camera. They tend to ignore him — or jump on his lens - “sometimes I spend as much time looking for the spiders as I do photographing them" (Otto’s motto?).

I mean the guy has to be a legend and definitely a fellow spider advocate! If discovering 7 new spider beauties isn’t enough, he uses the art of photography to capture their unique charm and beauty to convey to others that the spider is not an animal to be feared, but one of wonderment. "I've heard people say, 'I hate spiders, but I love these!'" (Otto). "If people turned from arachnophobes into arachnophiles, that would be my greatest achievement." I’d love to be able to look after some of my very own Peacock Spiders, could you imagine the fun we could have with the kids!? - I’m sure we could nip a few arachnophias in the butt too!