23 Jul 2018

Meet maratus unicup - the world's newest peacock spider

From Afternoons, 1:44 pm on 23 July 2018

Peacock spiders are tiny, booty-shaking spiders from Australia, and despite their incredible colouring and patterns the man who’s spent years studying them says his colourblindness could be an advantage. 

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Maratus Unicup, the most recently discovered peacock spider.  Photo: Jurgen Otto and David Hill

German arachnologist Jürgen Otto is based in Sydney, and says the spiders are between 2.5mm-4mm long and only found in Australia. 

Dr Jurgen Otto

Dr Jurgen Otto Photo: Supplied / Flickr

“They’re so small that most people would not see them,” Dr Otto says. 

See more of Jürgen's photos on his website or watch more videos of the spiders in action on his YouTube channel.

“And they’re completely harmless - of course not to the flies they eat, but they don’t do any harm to humans or larger organisms - so it’s a really nice thing to have over here"

He says they use their lovely, colourful legs in courtship rituals. 

“It’s got of course like all spiders, eight legs, and its third pair of legs is the longest and that’s the pair these spiders put up into the air and wave around as a courtship ritual to attract a female.”

Watch the maratus unicup mating display: 

He says he’s spent years researching peacock spiders. 

“Discovering quite a few of these spiders and naming most of the ones that we know about, so I know what a peacock spider looks like but every new species is a new thing for me, they’re always different. 

"You never know what patterns you’ll come across, what patterns they have. 

Maratus Jactatus, also known as 'Sparklemuffin'.

Maratus Jactatus, also known as 'Sparklemuffin'. Photo: Jurgen Otto and David Hill

"If you asked a human designer to come up with a pattern I think they would never come up with anything like it, it’s just something that nature produces and it’s amazing to see. 

"When I first published pictures on the internet people thought I was making them up, and still some people I think do believe that, but obviously not."

Otto takes all the photographs as a hobby. 

“I pretty much spend all my spare time in the last eight years photographing and filming them.” 

Dr Otto says he is colourblind, but he thinks that rather than making it more difficult it actually helps him see the spiders. 

“Females are camouflaged, they’re very difficult to spot but I find that my colourblindness gives me a little bit of an advantage there because I’m used to looking at shapes rather than colours. 

“I can see some colours but I probably don’t have the same spectrum as a normal seeing person, but it doesn’t matter much to me. 

“I look at these spiders and see that they’re terribly colourful, wonderfully colourful in fact.” 

Watch the maratus tortus mating display: