Photograph by Jurgen Otto
Read Caption

Maratus personatus is known for its deep blue face mask.

Photograph by Jurgen Otto

New "Blue Face" Peacock Spider Is Fancy Dancer

Like its relatives, the colorful Australian arachnid puts on quite a mating display, a new study says.

With its brilliant blue mask and flashy dance moves, a newly named species of peacock spider looks like it's ready for a night on the town.

Naturalist David Knowles first found Maratus personatus—which he dubbed blue-face—while wandering the western Australian outback about 20 years ago. But the jumping spider was only formally recognized last week, in a study published in the journal Peckhamia. (See "Behold Sparklemuffin and Skeletorus, New Peacock Spiders.")

M. personatus—personatus is Latin for mask—gets its name from the swath of blue scales that covers the male's face. Compared with other peacock spiders, "it is pretty unique," explains study co-author David Hill, editor of the Peckham Society, which supports research in jumping spiders.

For instance, within M. personatus, females have a range of genitalia in different shapes and sizes, whereas other peacock spider females generally have the same genital structure.

Flexible Mating

There are now more than 50 known species of Maratus, otherwise known as peacock spiders, whose males are famous for their bright colors and acrobatic mating dances. 

Watch a video of male peacock spiders in action.

Peacock spiders, which sport a dizzying palette of blues, yellows, reds, and more, have coloring "as elaborate as birds of paradise," notes Hill.

When a peacock spider female is near, a male will wave its third legs in the air in rapid, jerky movements intended to impress the female, Hill says. (Watch a jumping spider stalk a bee.)

In most peacock spider species, the males then unfurl a flap that crosses over their abdomen, shaking it overhead. But the new species seems a little more shy than its relatives, and does not perform this additional display.

But like its kin, M. personatus is extremely agile, says Hill: The female actually rotates her abdomen 180 degrees during mating.

Now that's what you call going to great lengths for love.

Follow Maya Wei-Haas on Twitter.