New Species appropriately nicknamed 'Sparklemuffin' and 'Skeletorus'

I really never thought of spiders as being "pretty" until I came across these two new species of peacock spiders discovered in southeast Queensland, Australia by Madeline Girard (graduate student from the University of California, Berkeley, who is specializing in peacock spiders). Peacock spiders are not only beautiful, they also engage in elaborate dances during courtship.

According to a quote from Jürgen Otto (posted in Live Science), who was a co-author in the study, Skeletorus "looks dramatically different [from] all other peacock spiders known to date, making me think that this group is perhaps much more diverse than we had thought."

Despite the large images below, the spiders are actually very small and only measure about 3-7 mm long.

In a quote from Live Science Otto also described the mating dance he observed by a Skeletorus spider: "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."

 

A colorful peacock spider 'Sparklemuffin' aka: Maratus jactatus lifting his leg in a courtship display. Image Credit: Jurgen Otto

 

Male 'Skeletorus' spider aka: Maratus sceletus. Image credit: Jurgen Otto

Source:

Live Science

 

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Gorgeous and bizarre! Probably not enough to convert my friend with a phobia of multi-legged, exoskeleton-wearing beasts, but it's worth a shot. Facebook, here I come!

By Michael Wells (not verified) on 28 Feb 2015 #permalink

(You know, you'd probably get more comments if you could convince some Republicans to start a spider-denialism movement and fund a couple foundations to that end.)

By Michael Wells (not verified) on 28 Feb 2015 #permalink

This is incredibly interesting, do you know if there is any information or evidence suggesting that these beautiful spiders can be found anywhere else in the world or have they only been sighted in Australia?
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By Taryn Rudling … (not verified) on 07 Mar 2015 #permalink

Peacock spiders are extremely beautiful! Are they poisonous though, seeing that many colourful species of spiders, frogs and other animals rely on toxins or poisons in order to survive as they cannot adequately rely on camouflage?

By Luke Michaelides (not verified) on 08 Mar 2015 #permalink

These Peacock Spiders are strikingly beautiful! How do they avoid predation as they must be easy to detect? Is it like many other cases in the animal kingdom like with attractive-looking frogs that are poisonous and use these toxins and/or poisons to defend themselves?
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By Luke Michaelides (not verified) on 10 Mar 2015 #permalink

This is amazing. I have seen some beautiful spiders before but nothing like this. We probably just overlook them due to their small size, and in the meantime they are the ones worth looking at the most. Do you know if these spiders are poisonous?
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Is it just me or does 'Sparklemuffin' sound like a name of a little girls' imaginary friend? :) Can someone please explain why it is an appropriate nickname for these spiders? Also, I love the images, I never thought spiders could be so mesmerising!

By Lisa Langeveldt (not verified) on 13 Mar 2015 #permalink

I agree that the sight is beautiful but wouldn't this be an bad camouflage for these spiders against prey or other spider eating predators. u15034730

By Quinton R. (not verified) on 22 Mar 2015 #permalink

I also think so Quinton, this spiders cannot camouflage themselves easily, so their variation in color might be a disadvantage
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Wow, what an absolutely stunning sight! I think it's about time I took a liking to spiders. What is the beautifully coloured, fan-shaped part of the spider called? It is incredibly intriguing how each individual spider has its own unique colours and patterns.
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By Paige Derbyshire (not verified) on 27 Mar 2015 #permalink

I wonder what type of habitat they occur in? I would be assuming that it would be brightly coloured flowers to help camouflage them from other larger predators. u15079709

By Brandon Putterill (not verified) on 28 Mar 2015 #permalink

I wonder what type of habitat they occur in? I would be assuming that it would be on brightly coloured flowers, to camouflage them from larger predators. u15079709

By Brandon Putterill (not verified) on 28 Mar 2015 #permalink

These spiders look amazing, the only question is: what kind of a habitat do they live in and furthermore, how are they protected from their predators when they have such pied beauty?

By Palesa Zulu u1… (not verified) on 29 Mar 2015 #permalink

These two nicknames suit the two spiders very well. It will definitely be easy for people to remember these two nicknames.
You just have to look at the spider and the nickname will come to mind. 15120521
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By Anthony Micklesfield (not verified) on 29 Mar 2015 #permalink

These two nicknames suit the two spiders very well. People will definitely remember the two nicknames by just looking at the spiders.

By Anthony Micklesfield (not verified) on 30 Mar 2015 #permalink

These spiders are incredibly, and surprisingly, beautiful! It is very interesting to think that these tiny, beautiful spiders also have a mating dance. Their bright colours make me curious as to whether or not they are poisonous to predators to ingest? And also whether they are venomous? How do they defend themselves?

Who would have thought that spiders can look this stunning! Are females also as beautifully colored and do they eat the males after mating as some species of spiders do? Does each male have his own unique dance or is there a universally understood sequence of dance movements among these spiders?

By Chanté Kritzinger (not verified) on 01 Apr 2015 #permalink

Who would have thought that spiders can look this stunning! Are females also as beautifully colored and do they eat the males after mating as some species of spiders do? Does each male have his own unique dance or is there a universally understood sequence of dance movements among these spiders?
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By Chanté Kritzinger (not verified) on 01 Apr 2015 #permalink

The questions about these spiders’ ability to camouflage themselves fascinated me since my logical tells me that there is no way you can be that colourful and not attract attention! I did some research, but it appears that people are still too excited about the spider’s colours and dances to have started researching habitat and other aspects of the spider’s life.
There must be some aspect that protects the spiders or else they would not survive in the wild till now. Just on my own, I thought that since the spiders do not blend into their environment, especially in the dry months, maybe they use their size as their defence mechanism? The spiders are only 3 -7 mm long so it is possible that while the spiders are very bright, other insects and species of spiders are not only easier for predators to detect in the bush but are also far more filling as a meal. I would love to hear everyone else’s thoughts?

While the colours on the spiders are not used for camouflage, it is interesting that they are used in the spider’s complex courtship displays. Not to mention that they would not have received half the publicity that they did if it was not for their brightly coloured outfits

By Sam (15036198) (not verified) on 02 Apr 2015 #permalink

These spiders are truly magnificent. I don't think of spiders as beautiful creature, but I must say these spiders are gorgeous. Do you know if these spiders can be found in South Africa? 15076874

By Ernst Blgnaut (not verified) on 02 Apr 2015 #permalink

As mentioned before, peacock spiders are venomous, however not to humans as their jaws are so small it can not even puncture our skin.
A very scary fact is that the female peacock spiders tend to eat their suitors who's dance is not good enough.

By R van der Walt… (not verified) on 02 Apr 2015 #permalink

The male peacock spider’s colourful flap is actually closed most of the time and attached to its abdomen. It only raises its flap when it wants to attract the attention of a female. It uses its third pair of feet to wave the flap around, just like an actual peacock does with its feathers!

By Vormaurer, K.F… (not verified) on 03 Apr 2015 #permalink

One word. "EXQUISITE".
These spiders are the most beautiful creatures I have ever seen.
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Yes these spiders are surprisingly beautiful for their small size. They pose no harm to humans as their jaws are to small to puncture human flesh, which is a good thing.
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By Jamie Mollentze (not verified) on 04 Apr 2015 #permalink

I have never liked spiders of any species but if these spiders invade my room i would not mind :) .They look really incredible though i do wander whether these spiders have the same characteristics as other spiders such as do they also eat insects or do they have a special diet?
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By Payal Upadhyay (not verified) on 05 Apr 2015 #permalink

These spiders are small, and could spend their time in around colourful flowers, allowing them to camouflage. Their relatively small size could make them invisible to larger prey and their venom is their defense mechanism to smaller prey.
Payal Upadhay (#23) perhaps they use their venom to kill and eat other insects, considering the fact that the females will attempt to devour the males whose dance is not impressive enough, as mentioned by R van der Walt (#21).

By Sachin Bhoora … (not verified) on 05 Apr 2015 #permalink

I have to admit that I have a very big fear of spiders and that they always creep me out. But I find these peacock spiders beautiful and quite remarkable. The coloring and patterns are unique. Is the coloring preferential to the gender of the spider? Are the patterns the same on every spider? It would be so amazing if they are unique to an individual, sort of like fingerprints in humans.

By Anita van Deve… (not verified) on 05 Apr 2015 #permalink

Although really beautifull(still scary though), wouldn't these spiders be more likely to be spotted by a prey? They have no way of hiding any place because of how colourful they are.
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By Rene van Rensburg (not verified) on 05 Apr 2015 #permalink

I would not say that I like spiders, but I do respect them, these colourful ones has just earned a whole lot of respect. I will certainly be on the lookout for future research about their camouflage we are all wondering about. I wonder what their webs look like. Is there no one who could tell us more about what these guys eat?

By Marinda le Roux (not verified) on 05 Apr 2015 #permalink

With the exception of one family, all spiders are venomous. But these peacock spiders are so tiny (they are smaller than your fingernail) I doubt their fangs will even be able to pierce your skin. So definitely not a concern to the neighbourhood arachnophobe .

By de Bruyn, C.N… (not verified) on 07 Apr 2015 #permalink

These spiders are beautiful! Their colour is extraordinary.
I agree with Brandon Putterill (#12) that these species spend most of their time in and around flowers in order to camouflage themselves and avoid predators.
Payal Upadhyay (#23), I think they feed on other insects, considering the fact that the female could eat male who does not pose as a suitable mate. Their venom should allow them to kill and feast on prey.

By Sachin Bhoora … (not verified) on 07 Apr 2015 #permalink

The male peacock spider’s colourful flap is actually usually closed and attached to its abdomen. It only raises its flap when it wants to attract the attention of a female. It uses its third pair of feet to wave the flap around, just like an actual peacock does with its feathers!

In reply to comment #21: Seeing as the female spider eats the male if the courtship dance is not satisfying to the female, this makes me think of the way a female preying mantis kills the male after coidice. Could these behaviours be related and if so, could this be used to trace a possible ancestor of these two species?
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By Bennett M (not verified) on 07 Apr 2015 #permalink

I don't think the general public really knows how diverse spiders are in terms of shape and colour. I went hiking over the weekend and encountered many types of spiders I have never even seen or heard of, some with odd spikes and others with triangular bodies. It didn't make walking into their webs any more pleasant, but it is interesting to see that spiders are more than just "bugs", they have beauty too. (15023372)

I agree with Sam. Size would definitely be a defense mechanism, because as mentioned above, they are very small - smaller than ones fingernail. I also believe that speed would act as a defense mechanism, because as members of the jumping spider family, the peacock spider would be very fast. Not much is mentioned about their habitat, but native to Australia, and due to their relation to jumping spiders, one can safely presume they inhabit a variety of habitats, including forests, deserts and perhaps some mountainous regions. But the latter is just my speculation.

By de Bruyn, C.N… (not verified) on 08 Apr 2015 #permalink

Payal Upadhyay, I think they do feed on other insects. It is typical of female peacock spiders to feed on male counterparts, so I think it is safe to assume that they feed on other insects.
These spiders are very small (3mm-7mm), and they could use this to camouflage from larger prey. They could also spend much of their time in and around flowers, allowing them to avoid predators.
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By Sachin Bhoora (not verified) on 08 Apr 2015 #permalink

I agree that these spiders are beautiful, and the pictures of them definitely attracted my attention. I assume that the female spiders differ from the male spiders, in the sense of appearance. (I think they don't have that much colour). The fact that we are so fascinated by these small creatures excites me. I would really enjoy watching one of these spiders perform its mating dance - it is as if these spiders have their own personalities. I wonder, though, if these spiders are venomous...

By Louw, N (15067981) (not verified) on 12 Apr 2015 #permalink

This is amazing even small organisms such as this consist of special courtship behaviour, although i still think it was pretty hard to study these characteristics because from what i have gathered they are very small.Thanks to Berkeley for a new perspection in science.

By Faith Makondo(… (not verified) on 15 Apr 2015 #permalink

The clours on these spiders are so beautiful and out of the ordinary.
I should definitely reconsider the fact that spiders are not too disgusting and they may be more interesting as I thought.
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By K Combrink (not verified) on 17 Apr 2015 #permalink

These spiders are very interesting! I would love to see one in real life!

I find it very interesting that spiders can be so beautiful.
I should definitly reconsider the fact that spiders are not all that bad.
I very touched by the way the want to get a females attetion almost asif its human being.
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By K Combrink (not verified) on 18 Apr 2015 #permalink

Wow I never thought I would see a beautiful spider, they are truly fascinating. I find their dancing to attract females very interesting. I wonder if they are poisonous in order to protect themselves, because of their small size?

These spiders are so beautiful! I would really love to see one in real life. I wonder how long they live? If they have a short life? Like butterflies?

By Naomi van Deventer (not verified) on 19 Apr 2015 #permalink

When did they find these creatures? I'm really not a big fan of spiders, but wow! I mean look at those colours. Have the scientists tested their poison for possible anti venoms or medication yet? This is a very exiting discovery.

By Z.Pretorius (not verified) on 20 Apr 2015 #permalink

what do they eat