Hold Me Closer Tiny Dancer
Lorie is not a fan of spiders at all, but even she concedes that Peacock spiders are pretty cute. It’s hard to not like a spider that attempts to impress prospective mates by waving his arms and wiggling his rear end. I don’t envy the dating lives of spiders, though– they don’t fraternize well, and being eaten by a female is always a possibility.
Peacock spiders (who seem to mostly occupy genus Maratus and be native to Australia) are tiny jumping spiders characterized by the little flappy extenders that the males bust out while wiggling their abdomens during mating displays. It would seem that there was some early thought that these flaps contributed to the jumps of the spiders as a sort of wing, but that’s been debunked— the spiders don’t fly. There’s quite a few species of these guys out there, all with different abdomen patterns and coloration– the variation seems to be between species, rather than individuals. The one I based the comic on is Maratus speciosus, and features prominently in this video.
I’ve always liked jumping spiders because they seem like the “friendliest” family of spiders. The ones I have experience with are almost always harmlessly tiny, and their distinct eyes make them very easy to anthropomorphize. They have have pretty good vision, especially as spiders go, and they often look back at you when you look at them. That sounds creepy, but it really is pretty cute. They’re also usually pretty low on the “gross-out” threshold: they don’t have bulging, corpulent bodies, or unsettlingly long, spindly legs. They don’t seem to spin elaborate webs, and are content to just lay a thin trail of belaying lines. They’re a little “fuzzy”, but they’re not too hairy. I guess their habits usually tend to keep them outside too, so they usually don’t surprise you in the kitchen sink. And if you do find one in the house, you don’t really mind, because they’re just so darn adorable!
If you’d like to see more Peacock spider footage, check out the photos and videos of Jürgen Otto, an Australian entomologist who seems to be the go-to-guy for information about Peacock spiders. Evidently the spiders are a kind of side hobby for Dr. Otto, who seems to be a researcher at the Australian Institute for Marine Science with a focus on marine mites (although I didn’t see him listed on the staff page… recent job change, maybe? Then again AIMS didn’t have the easiest-to-find staff page, so maybe he’s listed elsewhere). He co-authored a paper (PDF here) on the spiders in 2012, though, so he’s definitely not “just” photographing them! Oh, and while I’m at it: the Peckham Society seems to be dedicated to the professional and amateur study of jumping spiders, so they might be a good resource to learn more about the jumping spiders that live in your part of the world!