spider2a

The purple and yellow colors displayed on the peacock spider Maratus constellatus make it look like Vincent van Gogh’s famous painting Starry Night.


Joseph Schubert/Twitter

Looking for spiders might not be high on everyone’s to-do list right now, but thanks to citizen scientists and an Australian arachnologist, seven new colorful species of the teeny-tiny peacock spider have recently been discovered. One spider even resembles a famous Vincent van Gogh painting.

“Meet Australia’s seven newest species,” Melbourne Museum arachnologist Joseph Schubert tweeted on Thursday. “Last year, I traveled the country collecting specimens of these new peacock spiders (some discovered by citizen scientists) and spent countless hours in the lab studying them. Some welcome news in tough times.”

In his article published in the science journal Zootaxa on Friday, Schubert describes the new peacock spiders, including one named Maratus constellatus after a well-known work of art. 

“The patterns on the abdomen to me look so much like Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh,” Schubert said in a video. “Hence the name constellatus, which means starry in Latin.” 

Interestingly, a few of the new peacock spiders in Schubert’s study were discovered by citizen scientists who took photos and documented the spiders’ locations. The finds are impressive, especially since peacock spiders aren’t so easy to spot. The spiders are extremely small, measuring anywhere from 0.05 inches (1.5 millimeters) to a third of an inch (7.62 millimeters). 

While peacock spiders normally look like ordinary brown spiders at first glance, under a macro lens or microscope the spiders show off an array of colors including vibrant reds, purples and greens. In some cases, strange shapes of elephants, arrows, skulls and other spiders can be found on their abdomens. 

Peacock spiders are also known for their jerky movements, which turn out to be a meme-worthy mating dance by males to impress females. Sadly, even if the males’ dancing works to woo their mates, the female spiders may still eat them if they’re hungry after sex

The new spiders are called Maratus azureus, Maratus constellatus, Maratus inaquosus, Maratus laurenae, Maratus noggerup, Maratus suae and Maratus volpei. 

Including these new spiders, there are currently 86 species of peacock spiders. 

“Considering how many peacock spider species have been discovered in the past few years,” Schubert said. “I certainly think there are more to be found.”