Say Hello to Sparklemuffin

Read about one of three recently discovered peacock spiders in Australia.

This colorful, dancing arachnid is just one of the new peacock spider species that’s been found in eastern Australia.

Sparklemuffin and Friends Meet Sparklemuffin, Skeletorus, and Elephans, three recently identified peacock spiders! Just a quarter inch long, male peacock spiders are known for their brightly colored backs and mating dances! Video by Jürgen Otto

Published April 22, 2015

If you don't think of spiders as cute and cuddly, then you've never met Sparklemuffin. Scientists have identified the adorable arachnid as one of three recently discovered species of peacock spider in eastern Australia.

Less than a quarter-inch (five millimeters) long, male peacock spiders are known for their bright colors and flashy mating dance. These colors—like the vibrant red and blue of Sparklemuffin's stripes—make it easy to tell the difference between species. Many female peacock spiders, though, look alike, even to the males.

So how do peacock spiders like Sparklemuffin—a pet name given to this new species—break it down? When a female is nearby, the male begins his dance by raising the third pair of legs from his front and waving them around. Then he unfolds the flaps over his belly and waves those around. As the female comes toward him, he starts shaking and rolling his body, sending vibrations through the ground that the female can sense.

Fifty-three species of peacock spider, which are found only in Australia, have been named so far. But photographer Jürgen Otto thinks many more are waiting to be discovered. Because not many scientists are studying these spiders, he says photographers and nature lovers will probably be the ones to find new spiders. We can't wait to see what name they come up with next!

Text from "Behold Sparklemuffin and Skeletorus, New Peacock Spiders" by Carrie Arnold for National Geographic News

Adapted by Rose Davidson, NGS Staff

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Photograph by Jürgen Otto