An adorable species of peacock spider is named after Nemo, the beloved clownfish in Pixar’s Finding Nemo franchise.
Maratus nemo, which is only about the size of a grain of rice measuring just over 4mm in length, was discovered by a civilian scientist in South Australia.
The new species is named for its iridescent orange and white stripes, which scientists say are used to attract a partner during courtship.
Peacock spiders belong to the genus Maratus, which has come to the fore over the past decade for the male’s vibrant colors and ‘dancing’ displays.
Scroll down for video
A new species of peacock spider, Maratus nemo, is described from the vicinity of Mount McIntyre and Nangwarry, South Australia (male pictured here)
Peacock spiders are a type of jumping spider that live in Australia.
Each has a series of flaps around their bellies that show them during courtship or when competing against rival males.
When a male peacock spider senses a female, it begins the mating ritual by lifting its legs and flashing its belly in a sequence similar to a dance.
Their mating dances involve a complex series of movements as they swing their legs in the air and vibrate their bellies.
The females carefully study the color, vibrations and movements of the male to ensure that the potential suitor is healthy and the right species to mate with.
Once mated, he will repeat this dance with as many females as he can find.
Maratus nemo is described in a new article published in Evolutionary system, written by Australian spider lover Joseph Schubert.
“It has a very vibrant orange face with white stripes on it, which looks like a clownfish, so I thought Nemo would be a very suitable name for it,” said Schubert, a 23-year-old arachnologist at Museums Victoria. .
Strangely enough, Maratus nemo was found in a short-lived wetland complex on marshy vegetation in shallow water.
“No other species of Maratus is known to occupy such habitats.”
The little peacock spiders, or Maratus spiders, are native to Australia and are internet sensations for their elaborate courtship dances.
During the species ” unique ‘dancing’ courtship, the male lifts a single leg and slowly swings into a partially bent position.
As the female approaches, the male moves up and swings both legs faster.
Maratus nemo was discovered by Sheryl Holliday, a South Australian citizen scientist and an environmental field officer for Nature Glenelg Trust.
According to Holliday, the species appears to be quite widespread.
“I’ve seen about 40 individuals, all in three different locations … I’m sure there would be more in southeastern South Australia and also in western Victoria,” she said.
The species’ name is inspired by the clownfish Nemo (pictured, left with its father Marlin), the title character in Pixar’s 2003 film Finding Nemo, which portrays Australia’s marine life in CGI
Holliday hand-collected five Maratus nemo specimens – four males and one female – from Mount McIntyre and Nangwarry, South Australia, in November 2020.
She knew this spider was something different from the moment she found it, but she couldn’t identify the spiders as any particular species.
“He had a normal back, but his orange-red face stood out and I’d never seen anything like it, so I knew it had to be a new one,” she said.
Holliday posted photos on the Australian Jumping Spiders peacock spider rating page in hopes that someone could identify them – and the photos caught Schubert’s attention.
‘I ran into them and I was like,’ Oh, wow, that seems like a new strain, ‘so I got in touch with her and she sent me some specimens,’ ‘said Schubert.
Male Maratus nemo. Schubert says in his paper: ‘The new species appears to live in short-lived wetland complexes on marshy vegetation in shallow water’
Holliday hand-collected five Maratus nemo specimens – four male and one female – from Mount McIntyre and Nangwarry, South Australia
I got the specimens in the mail and then took a bunch of photos of them while they were still alive and captured the male’s courtship exhibit.
‘I kept them in ethanol and brought them back to the lab and studied the properties that made them different from other spiders.
“In general, the behavior will differ between each species, although we use different characteristics, such as male patterns, to distinguish different species from one another.”
To date, there are 92 peacock spider species – down from just 15 in 2011.
“I’ve described 13 peacock spider species and five species from their cousins Jotus, another genus of jumping spider,” said Schubert, who found his first peacock spider in 2016.
Seven of those new peacock spiders only came in 2020.
Last year, Schubert reported the discovery of a peacock spider resembling Vincent van Gogh’s famous painting ‘Starry Night’, in Victoria’s Little Desert National Park.
A spider similar to Vincent van Gogh’s famous painting ‘Starry Night’ was discovered in Australia. This male, called Maratus constellatus, is no more than four millimeters long and was spotted in the Little Desert National Park
Pictured is Vincent van Gogh’s famous ‘Starry Night’ painting, which inspired the name for Maratus constellatus, reported on in 2020
‘I think peacock spiders have caught the attention of the public just because they are really, really cute for spiders – they have these huge forward-facing eyes and you can relate to them a lot more than a hunter, say,’ he said.
Hunters are generally associated with Australia, but their range also extends across much of Asia, Africa and South America.
Most hunter spiders do not build a web to catch their prey, but hunt and forage for food at a speed of about 1 meter per second.
They can be found in people’s homes, crawling along the walls and running across the floor, and are large enough to give people quite a shock.
Australian spiders generally have a bad reputation – pictured here is the giant hunter spider (Heteropoda maxima, pictured), which can reach a whole foot (30 cm)
While they can bite, hunters are not considered dangerous to humans – and some Australians don’t mind them in the home as they eat pests such as cockroaches.
“ I used to be terrified of spiders and I have to admit I would probably still be a little scared if I came across a hunter or something by surprise, but I can really rationalize it now, ” said Schubert.
The expert said fire, pesticides and habitat loss are currently major threats to many Australian animals, including the peacock spider.
“About 30 percent of Australia’s biodiversity is formally scientifically documented, so this means we can lose species before we even know they exist,” Schubert said.
‘With taxonomy we have a basic understanding of our biodiversity.’