Meet Nemo, a new species of peacock spider

By Australian Geographic March 29, 2021
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Maratus Nemo was discovered by a citizen scientist in Mount Gambier, South Australia.

The diversity of Australia’s peacock spiders has grown once again with the discovery of Maratus nemo.

Named for its bright orange colouring, Nemo brings the total number of species within the Maratus genus to 92.

“It has a really vibrant orange face with white stripes on it, which kind of looks like a clownfish, so I thought Nemo would be a really suitable name for it,” says Museums Victoria’s Joseph Schubert.

Nemo was spotted by citizen scientist Sheryl Holliday, an ecological field officer for Nature Glenelg Trust, in Mount Gambier, South Australia. After posting photos of what she’d found on the Peacock Spider Appreciation Facebook page Joseph reached out.

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“It’s really important that citizen scientists get out there and are looking for things because scientists like myself can’t be everywhere at once. Roughly only 30 per cent of Australia’s biodiversity has been formally documented scientifically, so this means we could be losing species before we even knew that they existed,” Joseph says.

Australia’s peacock spider are the most attractive of the world’s more than 5000 species of jumping spider. At a tiny 4-6mm long, they stand out because of their small size, their relatively large eyes and, of course, the male’s dazzling opisthosomal fan.

This is a flap on the abdomen covered in bright iridescent scales, which makes it appear similar to a butterfly wing.

The fans are bold in themselves but it’s the male’s unique courtship dance that has caught people’s attention, especially online.

Related: Peacock spiders: tiny dancers