Add two more to the list. Not the species list, silly; the list of creatures to check out when I'm visiting down-under. As it is, Australia has some pretty interesting, and sometimes terrifying, species unique to that region of the world. But with a new study recently published in the journal Peckhamia, researchers are adding two new arachnid species to the list. And they're quite the colorful bunch.
Originally discovered by a University of California, Berkeley graduate student, Madeline Girard, the two new species of peacock spiders were given the name Maratus jactatus and Maratus sceletus. Though the two species were affectionately nicknamed "Sparkplemuffin" and "Skeletorus", the Queensland natives are far from domesticated pets. In fact, as peacock spiders not only are they brightly colored, with distinct markings that gave their novelty away to researchers, but they are also very complex creatures with a culture of their own. They are famed for their dance-like courtship rituals, and though the first of their species was discovered in the 1800's, they have not been widely sought out until recently.
Famous entomologist and spider photographer, Jürgen Otto coauthored the study, noting how vastly different one of the new species is to any previously discovered peacock spiders to date.
"Despite the large number o 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 says.
What makes these two species so unique?
Well, if their looks didn't already give it away, these two spider species are far from your garden-variety spiders here in the US. And it was their unique markings that originally led Girard to her discovery.
Similar to other species already discovered, Sparklemuffin Maratus jactatus has blue and red hued stripes along the length of its abdomen. And while the members of the species may vary slightly, their stripes and spots set them apart quite obviously. On the other hand, Skeletorus Maratus sceletus was given its name for the white markings along its black body, which slightly resemble the image of a skeleton.
Members of the calcitrans peacock spider group, the two new species add greatly to the researchers' understanding of arachnids. And the study authors say that the general public need not fear. While the close-up photos can have even the mildest arachnophobe running for the door, these tiny spiders don't pack too big of a punch. Measuring only 0.1 to 0.3 inches long they're far more interesting to look at and far less threatening to fear.