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'Finding Nemo': Meet the Newest Peacock Spider Species Recently Found in Australia

'Nemo' the peacock spider | Image credit: YouTube/Museums Victoria

'Nemo' the peacock spider | Image credit: YouTube/Museums Victoria

Peacock spiders are a species native to Australia. Males of this species are characterized by colourful abdomen flaps that they use to attract females during courtship and elaborate mating dance.

The newest member of peacock spiders has been recently discovered by Sheryl Holliday, an ecological field officer for Nature Glenelg Trust and citizen scientist.

According to a report by the National Geographic, Sheryl happened to discover the newest jumping spider while photographing in a wetland near South Australia’s Mount Gambier.

Peacock spiders are a species native to Australia. Males of this species are characterized by colourful abdomen flaps that they use to attract females during courtship and elaborate mating dance.

Sheryl, who has been chasing peacock spiders for the past three to four years, found this spider looked different. She noticed that its abdomen was drab, and had distinctive orange-and-white facial patterns.

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She posted the pictures of the spider on a Facebook page dedicated to peacock spiders. When the administrator and arachnologist, Joseph Schubert saw the images of the arachnid, he collected its live specimens.

Schubert, who is also a biologist at Museums Victoria, examined the tiny arachnid judging two of the most important aspects – male colouration and mating dance. The biologist noticed that it didn’t have those famous opisthosoma flaps which render the spider its colourful display underneath the abdomen.

Moreover, it used a different technique, unlike other spiders to attract the mate. It raised its third set of legs and vibrated its abdomen on the ground, generating an audible sound.

Owing to these investigations and different characteristics, Schubert and his team formally identified the new species of jumping spiders as maratus nemo and named it after Nemo, Disney’s heroic clownfish.

Reportedly, the number of species of peacock spiders has increased from just 15 in 2011 to 92 today. According to Schubert, the new discovery of these species can be credited to modern photography as anyone can click photos on their smartphones and readily upload their findings on the Internet.

Keywords: Nemo spider, dancing spider, newest peacock spider, Australian spider, Australian jumping spiders, arachnid, Australia

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first published:May 10, 2021, 11:52 IST