They’re fuzzy, they’re flashy, and they’ve got great moves.
1. They’re small, but they’re scrappy.
Peacock spiders (genus Maratus) cram a whole lot of swagger into a teeny-tiny package. The biggest Maratus species can reach 0.3 inches—about the size of a pencil eraser.
Like almost all spiders, peacock spiders are venomous. But that doesn’t mean they’re dangerous to humans: Their little jaws are so tiny that they couldn’t even puncture our skin.
We’re safe, but crickets and other spiders are not. Like all jumping spiders, the peacock spiders don’t build webs. They stalk their prey like lions. When the time comes, they pounce, and can take down prey three or four times their size.
2. Each species has its own dance—and house mix.
Female peacock spiders are the Tina Belchers of the animal kingdom. To impress them, you need two things: a terrific butt, and a talent for shaking it.
To fulfill these requirements, male peacock spiders have evolved spectacular iridescent fans on their butts, and fancy dances to show them off. The dance of each species is unique, but most of them involve sensual leg waving and booty shaking.
As if that wasn’t enough, a male also periodically pauses his dance to drum on the ground, and occasionally on the female’s head. Spiders don’t have ears like we do, and instead hear through organs on their legs. The drumbeats’ vibrations travel across the ground and up the legs of the female, which is apparently super-hot. If the male’s little vaudeville routine is satisfactory, the spiders get down to business.
3. It's bad for the male if his dancing isn't up to par.
Male spiders aren’t just dancing for sex; they’re dancing for their lives. Courtship is risky business for the males, since female peacock spiders will not hesitate to eat their suitors. But here’s the thing: they only seem to eat the bad dancers. How’s that for incentive?
4. The babies are SO CUTE.
Unexpected bonus: peacock spider spiderlings are ridiculously adorable.
After mating, Maratus mothers lay about a half-dozen eggs. (I don’t know if you remember Charlotte’s Web, but for spiders, six eggs is nothing.) With touching dedication, a female peacock spider guards her eggs for two weeks without eating, which often means her end. But when those two weeks are up, the little critters emerge, and boy, are they worth it. Look at that face! They’re like Ewoks with extra eyes!
5. The two newest species are Sparklemuffin and Skeletorus.
Biologist Madeline Girard and her friend Eddie Aloise King were on a collecting mission in Queensland, Australia, scanning the ground for specimens of Maratus volans. Instead, they found two entirely new species.
Male Sparklemuffin (Maratus jactacus) spiders have butts like ski caps made out of jewels and a dance that makes them look very, very drunk.
© Jurgen Otto, with permission
The black and white Skeletorus (Maratus sceletus) was named after Skeletor from Masters of the Universe, and looks very different from any other peacock spider, which might mean the group is more diverse than scientists suspected. “I’ve always been fascinated by things that go unnoticed,” Girard tells mental_floss. You can see more of the spiders on Jurgen Otto's Facebook page and YouTube channel.