peacock spider

Episode 120 – Peacock Spider: The Real Tiny Dancer

“And today we’re talking about an adorable arachnid with as much style as they have charisma. But more on that later.”

While John Travolta dances to cope with the stresses of life and Kevin Bacon dances so that the Bomont seniors can go to prom, the peacock spider is a much more dire dancer. When he puts on a show, it’s always “dazzle or be dashed”. But that’s what happens when you’re dancing on the edge of Life, Death, and Taxonomy.

Description

  • Females are brown with black and white color patterns.
  • Males come in brighter colors but more on that later. 
  • Both males and females are relatively the same size, unlike other spiders.
  • Other Peacock spider species have unique coloration patterns, even among the earth toned females.

Measure Up

Length

  • 5 mm
  • How many Peacock Spiders go into the diameter of an Australian 10c piece? 
  • Hint: The coin is a copper nickel and it features a lyrebird, a design that was made in 1966.
  • 4.72 spiders. The coin is 23.60 mm.

Weight

  • The jumping spider species Habronattus calcaratus weighs up to 13.5 mg.
  • How many jumping spiders go into the weight of what every spider on earth eats in a year?
  • Hint: The weight is more than the combined weight of all people on earth.
  • 53,759,095,700,000,000 (53 Quadrillion). All spiders eat a combined 800 million tons a year .

Fast Facts

  • This cool spider is of course from Australia and it can be found in specific regions like Queensland, New South Wales, and Western Australia. 
  • They can also be found in Tasmania and Indonesia. 
  • Peacock Spiders are jumping spiders, which means they like to leap on their prey rather than building webs.
  • They kill prey by injecting a deadly venom, capable of taking down prey up to three times their size. 
  • They like to eat other spiders and insects, including crickets. 
  • Spider females only lay about six eggs, which is small compared to the hundreds laid by other spiders. 
  • Jumping spiders and their babies are cute as heck.
    • If you’ve ever seen those adorable Lucas the Spider animations, Lucas is modeled after jumping spiderlings like Peacock spiders. (Link in the Website).
    • A photographer named Uda Dennie, took some close ups of jumping spiders in his backyard. They have bubble hats on and it’s a must see.
  • A biologist named Madeline Girard and her friend Eddie Aloise King found the most recent new species of jumping spiders.
    • The two new species are called Sparklemuffins and Skeletorus.

Crazy Dance

  • So we just described a pretty colorful chap, but this guy is really small. To the naked eye, the peacock spider is a drab brown speck hopping around the average Australian’s backyard.
    • No one really thought too much of them until a 22-year-old student from Monash University named Joseph Schubert started taking close-up photos and studying them in 2011.
      • In fact, until then, there were only 5 named species of peacock spider. Now there are 80. Continuing research is headed up by Jurgen Otto, a colorblind German who goes by the name Peacock Spiderman
    • Now they’re Australia’s most charismatic minibeasts – Forbes
    • Apparently, Joseph was arachnophobic as a kid. So he did what any normal person would do and started keeping spiders as pets to cure his fear. It worked and now Joseph is known for his technicolored spiders.
  • So now we know that Mister Breakaway Pants is actually a colorful character and possibly as cute as a spider can be. 
  • But we also know why they’re so colorful and how they use those spider shades.
    • Like with most colorful animals, it uses its colors to attract a mate. 
    • When a male sees a spidergwen he fancies, he does a little dance to show off his bright and beautiful buttocks.
    • But she can’t see those glorious hams when they’re stuck behind him, so he actually raises his abdomen skyward and fluffs it out like a satellite dish behind his cephalothorax.
    • He also raises two of his arms straight into the air in a V-shape like he’s a soccer ref announcing a goal.
    • Then he vibrates his abdomen and flicks his arms side to side like a ticking clock (or like Loonette the clown off of The Big Comfy Couch)
    • But this is no ordinary mating dance. Like a lot of spiders, the male is dancing for his life. 
      • If the female doesn’t like his dance, she’ll likely attack and eat him, though he can escape by jumping away.
      • If she does like his dance, she’ll mate with him… and then attack him and eat him.
      • Literally dinner and a show

Ending: So put on your best colors, raise two of your hands in the air like you just don’t care, and dance like some ladyspider is watching like the peacock spider here in LDT.

Outro

Hey everyone! Thanks for tuning in to hear us talk about spiders a bunch. If you like what you heard and want your friends, family, coworkers, and your coworker’s friends and family to know about our show, be sure to send them to us on their favorite podcasting app, Facebook, Twitter, or our home on the web at ldtaxonomy.com. You can also leave a review to help us reach more people in desperate need of interesting animal info. Thanks again for listening and we’ll see you next week!