Seven New Species of Peacock Spider Discovered by Museums Victoria's 'Spider-Man'
Museums Victoria’s very own ‘Spider-Man’ Joseph Schubert has described new species of the Internet’s most beloved dancing invertebrate, the Peacock Spider.
A research paper published in leading international animal taxonomy mega journal Zootaxa today describes seven new species of Peacock Spider in the Maratus genus. This brings the total number of species within this genus to 85.
Tiny and vividly-coloured, Maratus spiders are unique to Australia and have proved an Internet hit where videos of their elaborate courtship dances with added music and photoshopped accessories have clocked millions of views.
At just 22 years old Joseph has now described a total of 12 species of Peacock Spiders, having previously described five in 2019. Despite growing up terrified of spiders, Joseph became fascinated by them over time and has already proven himself a world leader in Maratus research.
In his previous research, Joseph was sent specimens to identify by a dedicated spider-loving community of the not-for-profit Project Maratus group.
‘Someone would send me a picture and I’d think "oh wow, that could be a new species!"’ Joseph said.
Thanks to funding from Bush Blitz Australia and Museums Victoria, Joseph was able to travel out to Little Desert in Victoria and conducted additional fieldwork in Western Australia. With seven new species to his name, it has certainly been worth it.
Maratus azureus, Maratus constellatus, Maratus laurenae, Maratus noggerup, and Maratus suae are the new 5 species out of Western Australia, while Maratus volpei was identified from South Australia, and Maratus inaquosus from Victoria.
Joseph has taken naming inspiration from the spider’s colouration, locality, or in honour of the people who discovered the species or have supported Joseph throughout his research.
‘Some of the species in this paper were discovered by citizen scientists who documented the localities and sent images to me - their help is so important for this kind of research,’ Joseph explains.
As with previous described species of Maratus, images taken by Joseph show males of the new species have remarkable iridescent colours and patterns on their abdomens, an identifying feature of peacock spiders used in their courtship displays.
‘I would have to say Maratus constellatus is my favourite by far - it’s such a nice looking species, the pattern reminds me of The Starry Night by Van Gogh. Plus I travelled a very, very long way to find it!’
Joseph believes this is just the start of an ever-growing list of new discoveries about these spiders.
‘I don’t think we are anywhere near done yet, considering how many species have only recently been discovered and how many sites are yet to be explored - I’m still actively on the hunt for new species of peacock spider!’
Watch Joseph Schubert discuss his new discoveries:
Read more about Joseph's research and Peacock Spiders: Why the 2010s were the decade of the peacock spider
Follow Joseph Schubert on Twitter @j_schubert__
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