Peacock spider, Maratus volans

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Jumping spiders are often very colourful spiders. Maratus volans is not an exception.
Although tiny, male spiders have an iridescent colouring of red, green and blue.

The cephalothorax (head-breast part) and legs are usually dark brown to black with red stripes but the greenish upper abdomen is patterned with red and blue stripes.
Females and the immatures of both sexes are dull, brown drab coloured creatures.
Mature spiders are small with a length of between 4 and 5 mm.
The spider can be found in Queensland and New South Wales.

The male spider has two rounded skin-like flaps on either side of his abdomen that are folded down close against the sides of the body, like a shawl, when not in use.
The spider has - like all saticids - excellent eye-sight and can detect prey 20 cm away.
The brilliant colouring is not just for decoration. The peacock spider has earned its name when he courts with his mate.
He raises his abdomen vertically, expands his flaps and displays them like a peacock's tail. He also raises his third legs which have a brush of black bristles and the white-tipped ends.
While vibrating his raised legs and tail, he starts dancing from side to side or rolls as a sailor as he approaches the female.
Altogether a spectacular courtship dance. After mating the male repeats the performance and dancing with other females.

The spider's courtship behaviour is comparable with the European Saitis barbipes. The name of the peacock spider was changed a few times. From Attus volans to Saitis volans and recently to Maratus volans.
Like many other Australian common spiders the genus name was given by European arachnologists more than a century ago. After detailed studying many Australian spiders are found not to be related to European spiders and will undergo name changes.
Maratus volans has a few common names: flying spider, gliding spider and the preferred name peacock spider.
Although volans in its name suggest the spider can fly, it actually does not use its flaps to extend the distance of its jump. He uses the abdominal flaps only for courtship and displays them like a peacock.
 


  Under side (ventral)

 

Literature and more information:

Two nice documentaries from Jurgen Otto
http://www.abc.net.au/catalyst/stories/3160792.htm
http://www.abc.net.au/catalyst/stories/3160841.htm
The complete set of Maratus volans pictures from Jurgen Otto: http://www.flickr.com/photos/59431731@N05/sets/72157625910288895/

- Spiders, Barbara York Main, 1976, ISBN 0 00 2165576 7
- Australian spiders, Keith C. McKeown, 1952
- Debunking an urban myth: The jumping spider Maratus cannot fly!, Julianne M. Waldock, 2008
- Euophryine jumping spiders that extend their third legs during courtship, David Edwin Hill, PECKHAMIA 74.1, 9 August 2009, 1-27
- Maratus vespertilio from southern Australia, Jürgen C. Otto and David E. Hill , PECKHAMIA 92.1, 12 July 2011, 1―6
- An illustrated review of the known peacock spiders of the genus Maratus from Australia, with description of a new species, Jürgen C. Otto and David E. Hill, PECKHAMIA 96.1, 1 December 2011, 1―27
- Notes on Maratus Karsch 1878 and related jumping spiders from Australia, with five new speciesJürgen C. Otto and David E. Hill, PECKHAMIA 103.1, 4 November 2012, 1―81

 

All Maratus volans images copyright Jürgen Otto

Ed Nieuwenhuys, Jurgen Otto, 6 november 2012
5 april 2011, 29 november 2008