Coastal Opal Peacock Spider – Unexpected Brilliance
Unexpected brilliance. Dance like you mean it. Having faith, taking leaps. Standing out from the crowd. Be brilliant, hide when you need to. Grounded glamour. Dancing. Learning complex skills out of love. Pushing to always improve. Delicacy. You are overlooking something special.
The coastal opal peacock spider (Maratus speciosus) is a member of the Maratus family of peacock spiders, which are largely found in Australia (with one species at the time of this writing found in China). They are known for being very small, and for the males having a very colourful upper abdomen used for elaborate courtship dances to woo females. These dances have been likened in complexity to those found in many birds of paradise, featuring different stages, as well as documentation of males practicing their dances when the female isn’t around.
The coastal opal peacock spider is found primarily on beaches and among vegetative sand dunes in Bunbury, Western Australia. They are most active in August, September and October, as that is when the males are seeking females to perform their courtship dances for. They have a distinctive iridescent blue, red and black upper abdomen with lateral flaps and bright orange bristles, these flaps can be extended, and the bristles shown during courtship. Their abdomen is raised and then ‘danced about’ to best show off the iridescence. Females are white-grey-brown, camouflaging well. They release pheromones to indicate when they’re receptive to mating. Females lay egg sacs in December in a nest, and will stay with the sac until they hatch.
Peacock spider dances include physical movements, but also vibrational signals. They have an extra long pair of decorated legs which assist in the dancing movements. Their iridescence, particularly the blue shades, use nanostructures not seen in any other animal. The blues in the coastal opal peacock spider do not fade over time. They are able to see in red, blue, green and ultraviolet. It is thought that their long legs assist with avoiding predation by females. Males have been known to dance for up to fifty minutes for a female. They can also be aggressive in courtship, and will even pursue uninterested and pregnant females, and even females of different species.
Like most jumping spiders, peacock spiders do not make webs to hunt, instead actively searching their prey of flies, moths, winged ants, grasshoppers and other insects. They can take down prey four to five times their own size. They can also jump twenty times their size. They are predated upon by many other animals, though their ability to jump helps them escape quickly. They live primarily solitary lives until breeding season.