On 20 September 2019 in Peckhamia 148.3 Jurgen Otto and David Hill published the third version of their “Catalogue of the Australian peacock spiders”. It includes all 78 named peacock spiders and shows maps showing all areas from where they are currently known. This catalogue remains a work in progress, meaning it will be updated from time to time as new species are described and further distribution records become known.
On 2 September 2019 Jurgen Otto and David Hill described and named in Peckhamia 189.1 three new species of peacock spider: Maratus cuspis, Maratus icarus and Maratus sylvestris. The first two have been found in Western Australia and the third along the east coast (NSW). This brings the total of named peacock spiders to 78.
On 29 June Joseph Schubert described a new peacock spiders (Maratus occasus) from the southeast of Queensland, bringing the number of named species now to 75. Maratus occasus is described in number 187.1 of the journal Peckhamia. It was discovered in 2017 by Philip Price and Katie Lou. The name occasus (latin for sunset) refers to the colouration of this spider.
A paper publishes by Dakota E. McCoy and collaborators 15 May 2019 shows how the shape of particular scales on the abdomen of peacock spiders makes the particular areas blacker they would be otherwise. The study focuses on Maratus specious and Maratus karrie, but black patches can be found in many other species of peacock spiders. The study found that super black regions reflect less than 0.5% of light in this two species owing to the microscope structures. The authors suggest that like in birds of paradise these black patches make nearby colours appear brighter.
Peacock Spider 21 , the latest of my YouTube videos is now online. It features Maratus trigonus, a rare peacock spider that has been found only at a single location in the southwest of Western Australia. I think the video can be aptly described as “short and sweet”, check it out.
After realising that the type species of the genus Lycidas was in fact a peacock spider Otto & Hill transferred that species into the genus Maratus and by doing so they synonymised Lycidas and Maratus. All species that were previously in Lycidas were therefore absorbed by Maratus. The problem however was that some species in Lycidas really did not look much like Maratus at all and since that day it was debated what to do with them, in particular the species known as Maratus scutulatus, possibly the most common jumping spider in all of Australia, found in almost every garden.
A second problem that many who photographed jumping spiders can attest to was that of a species commonly found near houses in Australia and New Zealand. In New Zealand is called the “house hopper”. However, there was some debate about what its scientific name should be. It had been referred to under several names, Hypoblemum villosum, and Hypoblemum albovittatum, but it was unclear which of these, if any, was correct.
In a paper published in Peckhamia 180.1 Jurgen Otto, David Hill and Robert Whyte clarified the names of both spiders. They removed the species scutulatus from the genus Maratus and assigned it to the genus Hypoblemum. They identified two other species names that had been used for that same spider, namely albovittatum and dialeuca and declared these synonyms of scutulatus. Finally, they discovered that calling the New Zealand “rock hopper” Hypoblemum albovittatum was a misidentification. Its alternative identification as Hypoblemum villosum had been correct but the same species had been described previously under a third name, griseum, and this name being the oldest name has priority. Hence we ended upwith the name Hypoblemum griseum for that species.
In summary, both of these common spiders are now in the genus Hypoblemum, and they are called Hypoblemum scutulatum and Hypoblemum griseum. Females and males of both species have interesting behaviour that is similar to that in peacock spiders and genetic work also indicates that these two species of Hypoblemum are closely related to peacock spiders in the genus Maratus.
Three new species of peacock spider were named in a paper published by university student Joseph Schubert on 5 March. The species are Maratus aquilus, Maratus felinus and Maratus combustus. The names are aptly chosen: aquilus is latin for “eagle” and refers to the pattern on this spider’s abdomen which resembles an eagle’s face, felinus is derived from the latin name for cat and refers again the the male’s abdomen which reminded Joseph of a cat’s face, combustus, you probably guessed is a reference to fire, the male of this species carries a pattern on his abdomen that looks like flames. One of the species, Maratus aquilus, is also illustrated on this website in photographs and videos. The three species were discovered by a group of photographers and peacock spider enthusiasts from eastern Australia and Scotland. Yes indeed, peacock spiders now attract overseas visitors who want to search for them.
The ABC in Australia will show a segment about peacock spiders in the three part series “Magical Land of Oz”. This is not the first time footage of peacock spiders makes it onto TV, but it is the first time a major natural history production about Australian wildlife uses the image of a peacock spider as their main advertisement. Years ago when I started my work on peacock spiders I predicted that in 10-20 years time peacock spiders would be as popular as kangaroos or koalas, this is perhaps evidence that this is happening.
On 24 January 2019 my good friends Joseph Schubert and Robert Whyte named a new species of peacock spider from Cape York in Peckhamia 177.1 The spider, name Maratus sagittus was discovered on a Bush Blitz expedition to Quinkan Country, an indigenous rock art region located within the Cape York Peninsula, Queensland. The expedition involved a team of scientists from Queensland Museum, Cairns Tropical Herbarium, Queensland Herbarium, and the University of NSW, working with Quinkan Country indigenous rangers and traditional owners: the Laura Ranger group and the Western Yalanji Aboriginaal Corporation. The species name “sagittus” refers to the arrow-shaped marking on the dorsal opisthosomal plate of the male.