Please welcome Skeletorus and Sparklemuffin, the two newest species of spider

3 Mar 2015

A male Sparklemuffin mid mating dance. Image via Jurgen Otto

It’s hard to find much love for spiders, particularly large hairy ones, but two new species may have changed this after its discoverer has named the two colourful breeds: Skeletorus and Sparklemuffin.

Both species come from a family of spiders known as peacock spiders which, unsurprisingly, are rather colourful creatures as well as the fact that they happen to dance quite provocatively during their mating rituals.

Discovered in Australia by Madeline Girard, a graduate student at the University of California and her colleague, entomologist and photographer of the spiders, Jurgen Otto.

According to Live Science, the spiders’ official names are actually Maratus sceletus (Skeletorus) and Maratus jactatus (Sparklemuffin) and now join three other known species of peacock spiders with the male’s distinctive mating dance including a move that sees it raise one of its legs in the air as if it is performing the famous stance from Saturday Night Fever.


A male Skeletorus. Image via Jurgen Otto

Despite Sparklemuffin’s vibrant array of colours, Otto has said that Skeletorus raises the most interesting questions because of its uniqueness among its species that makes it look ‘dramatically different’ to the others with its skeleton-like design on its body.

For those with a fear of spiders, you can rest easy as the species is similar in size to harmless house spiders measuring between 3mm and 7mm in length.

Speaking of Skeletorus’ mating dance, Otto says it was a joy to behold.

“When [the male] got within a few centimetres of the female, he exploded into a firework of activity,” he said. “The spinnerets were extended and flicked around at an amazing speed, one of the legs was flexed like he wanted to show off his muscles, and he moved constantly from one side of the grass blade to the other.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic