Spineless Wonders

In appreciation of frog, reptile, insect and arachnid biodiversity in Australia, New Guinea and South East Asia.
David Knowles has been studying, photographing, writing and teaching about invertebrates and reptiles for many years.
Some of his photographic collection can be seen here. http://spinelesswonders.smugmug.com/

New “Blue Face” Peacock Spider
Is Fancy Dancer

Like its relatives, the colorful Australian arachnid puts on quite a mating display, a new study says.
Picture of a new species of peacock spider
Pied Bluemask Peacock Salspider Maratus sp. TBC M Cape Riche Western Australia large comp BL 6.2mm Oct

Photograph ©DavidGKnowles
Maratus personatus is known for its deep blue face mask.
By Maya Wei-Haas, National Geographic
PUBLISHED August 04, 2015

With its brilliant blue mask and flashy dance moves, a newly named species of peacock spider looks like it’s ready for a night on the town.

Naturalist David Knowles first found Maratus personatus—which he dubbed blue-face—while wandering the western Australian outback about 20 years ago. But the jumping spider was only formally recognized last week, in a study published in the journal Peckhamia. (See “Behold Sparklemuffin and Skeletorus, New Peacock Spiders.”)

M. personatus—personatus is Latin for mask—gets its name from the swath of blue scales that covers the male’s face. Compared with other peacock spiders, “it is pretty unique,” explains study co-author David Hill, editor of the Peckham Society, which supports research in jumping spiders.

For instance, within M. personatus, females have a range of genitalia in different shapes and sizes, whereas other peacock spider females generally have the same genital structure.

Flexible Mating

filming ©Jurgen Otto

There are now more than 50 known species of Maratus, otherwise known as peacock spiders, whose males are famous for their bright colors and acrobatic mating dances.

Watch a video of male peacock spiders in action.

Peacock spiders, which sport a dizzying palette of blues, yellows, reds, and more, have coloring “as elaborate as birds of paradise,” notes Hill.

When a peacock spider female is near, a male will wave its third legs in the air in rapid, jerky movements intended to impress the female, Hill says. (Watch a jumping spider stalk a bee.)

In most peacock spider species, the males then unfurl a flap that crosses over their abdomen, shaking it overhead. But the new species seems a little more shy than its relatives, and does not perform this additional display.

But like its kin, M. personatus is extremely agile, says Hill: The female actually rotates her abdomen 180 degrees during mating.