With a name like Sparklemuffin, how scary can a spider be?
That’s the nickname given to one of three new species of peacock spiders recently discovered in eastern Australia. The spiders—known for their bright colors and elaborate mating dances—are more cute and cuddly than creepy-crawly.
Student Maddie Girard from the University of California, Berkeley, discovered two of the new spider species in the Wondul Range National Park in Queensland, Australia. Girard named Skeletorus (Maratus sceletus) for its black-and-white markings that resemble a skeleton. She says she’s not sure how she came up with the name for Sparklemuffin (Maratus jactatus), which has blue and red stripes on its abdomen.
Jurgen Otto, a scientist who studies insects, discovered the third new species while searching through specimens at the Australian Museum in Sydney. That spider has a pattern that resembles an elephant’s face on the flaps covering its backside. Otto named it Maratus elephans.
The newly discovered species make up 3 of about 30 known species of peacock spiders, which is a type of jumping spider. These spiders hunt and stalk prey rather than spinning webs. They are tiny, with females measuring about 5 millimeters (0.25 inches) long. Males are even smaller.
Although peacock spiders were first discovered in the 1800s, they went virtually unstudied for more than 100 years. To this day, very few scientists research them. That’s why Otto and Girard believe that many more species of peacock spiders exist.
“[Peacock spiders] are so small that not a lot of people are looking for them,” Girard says. “[So] I think we’re just scratching the surface. I feel like there are a million more out there.”
Just 1 out of 30 species of peacock spiders live outside of Australia. Express this fraction as a repeating decimal.