Peacock Spider

1 Minute in the Wild – The Peacock Spider

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Staying Alive! Doing it the male Peacock Spider style

Can life be that difficult, when you are a male spider? When you are a peacock spider (Maratus genus) it definitely doesn’t come easy!

At average 5 millimetres in length, the peacock spider has perfected the art of dancing the tango to attract a mate, and to stay alive.

The peacock spider has colourful flap-like extensions on the abdomen that can be extended and folded down. When a male finds a possible mate, it raises his abdomen, then expands and raises the flaps so that the colours are displayed. These flaps are used to gain the attention of the female. Once she shows some form of interest, the male starts to dance. The dance consists of the male vibrating his abdomen while running short bursts from side to side, and all this accompanied by a pair of swinging legs to add to the attraction. The legs are raised and moved around like YMCA hands flapping in the air.

If the male seems to be gaining some attraction, it uses its tiny pedipalps (those small arm-like extensions near the mouth) to tap on the surface. It’s like a Morse code to signal to the female that he is hot, available and whether she is ready to mate. The mating dance can last several minutes, and differs in style from one species to another.

But showing some colorful and impressive moves can cost the male peacock spider his life! If the male continues his dance when the female is not interested, she attempts to attack, kill, and feed on him. Fortunately for the male, he is a jumping spider, so a quick retreat is possible.

Basic Facts:

Species:
There are 67 known species and subspecies of peacock spiders. New species are discovered each year. Due to their colours and dance routines, the new species also have colorful nicknames, such as “Skeletorus” and “Sparklemuffin”.

Distribution:
All but one of the peacock spiders live in Australia within a diverse range of habitats, from sand dunes on the temperate coasts to grasslands in the semi- arid regions. The remaining species is found in China.

Size:
The biggest Maratus species can reach around 8 millimeters in length.

Lifespan:
Peacock spiders can live 3-5 years in the wild.

Are they venomous?
Like almost all spiders, peacock spiders are venomous. But that means they use their venom to catch prey, and are harmless to humans.

Feeding and Diet:
Typical to most jumping spiders, the Maratus doesn’t use a web to catch its prey. It hunts, stalks and pounces on the unsuspecting victim. Their main diet consists of tiny insects, such as crickets.

Image Source: newscientist.com – Jürgen Otto

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