Peacock spiders: tiny dancers

By Natsumi Penberthy 28 October 2014
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Modern camera technology has captured male peacock spiders’ miniature courtship dances, revealing that these Aussie natives can really flaunt it.

Australia’s 29 peacock spider species 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.

Jürgen’s YouTube channel has attracted more than 3.6 million views. In a mash-up of his footage by another user, one male’s acrobatic legs make traffic-controller-like gestures to the rhythm of Y.M.C.A. by the Village People; and footage of a coastal peacock spider is slowed as it does a sort of peculiar overhead clap.

Each species has its own unique choreography. Most begin by waving their legs to get the female’s attention, then follow with a dance using their third legs and -opisthosomal fans. They also use rotating appendages called spinnerets (which other spider species use to spin webs) and vibrate their abdomens. The dance can last anywhere from 10 seconds to two hours.


Read the full story in #123 of Australian Geographic (Nov-Dec 2014)