The Amazing Mating Dance of the Peacock Spider

This is the peacock spider Maratus volans. Jürgen Otto was the first to film this spider's mating dance.

The animal dances and lifts up its tail-flap, which, once unfurled, resembles an abstract Indian blanket of intense color. The tiny creature hops about, lifts up its legs alternately like an air traffic controller, gesturing this way and that. Its large, furry mouthparts almost make it look like it's smiling, or at least mildly amused at this outrageous act.
Meet the peacock spider. Males from several species within this group of spiders put on remarkable mating displays to win over mates of the opposite gender. Jürgen Otto has done perhaps more than anybody else to document and share footage of this arachnid's terrific breeding ritual — it has even won over people who previously hated spiders.

For a creature so tiny — most species are around an eighth of an inch (a few millimeters) long — the display is surprisingly complex and visual. Due to their tiny size, and perhaps because they only live in certain areas in Australia, the animals haven't been well-documented. But Otto, an entomologist who usually studies marine mites, is working to change that.


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