Not-Monday Awesome: peacock spiders

It’s Tuesday! I can’t believe I forgot to post an Awesome for Monday. I’ve remembered every week since October when I started the series. I guess I just forgot what day it was.

So, on to today’s Awesome. Last year, a video hit the Tube that was circulated rather widely amongst my sciency friends. It was about a group of Australian jumping spiders called ‘peacock spiders’ because they have a colourful, kind of frilly abdomen that they wave around in courtship dances. They are really cute. The original video is at the bottom, and if you’re interested, the presenter guy has made several others. But that’s not really today’s Awesome, that’s just background info.

The new species - Maratus harrisi (photo by Jurgen Otto)

The first thing I saw this morning when I opened the Canberra Times newspaper website (I rarely read hard copy newspapers anymore), was a new species of peacock spider described from Canberra. Taxonomy is not usually awesome (trust me!) but it was the way in which this was described that was really cool. A guy saw a cute spider while out bushwalking, took its picture and posted it on Flickr. Another guy, in America, left a comment saying “oh, that looks like a new species of the genus Maratus. Got any more specimens?”. And then, the guy from the YouTube video (who is based in Sydney) got involved with the taxonomy and voila, a new species. The Canberra Times doesn’t give any information about the actual taxonomic paper, but I guess that’s not the important bit for the public. New species are cool, and using the internet to connect researchers and keen amateurs is a really neat way of getting work done.


4 thoughts on “Not-Monday Awesome: peacock spiders

  1. Hi there,

    nice writeup. If you are interested, the description of the species was published a few months ago in Peckhamia, only weeks after Stuart found the specimen, still the only one ! You can download it at the Peckhamia site 96.1 It is 96.1
    Could you please include a photocredit under the picture, copyright Jurgen Otto underneath the picture in your blog, that would be nice. If you want to get in touch, my email is

    Cheers, and happy blogging

    Jurgen (“the guy from YouTube)

  2. Hi, nice intro, kind and keen words. If you would like to get my ‘two-bobs’ worth re the discovery of Maratus harrisi, just ask me!? I have to say i have been underwhelmed by the response since the (belated) Canberra Times story (release) but it is nice and reassuring that the story DID impact favorably on other people, esp those in and around Canberra.
    I may be contacted via email on :
    Stuart Harris

    PS – this exciting discovery would not have been possible without the encouragement and cooperation of Drs Otto & Hill (USA)

    PSS – there may be a Peacock Spider 2013 in the pipeline, stay tuned for inof on a limited release in th esecond half of 2012 🙂

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