Your Eight-legged Neighbors
I‘ve encountered a few Black Widows, Brown Recluse, and Wolf spiders, but I have yet to run into a Peacock spider. I had not even heard of one until I saw this article in Scientific American, “New Species of Peacock Spider has Leopard Spots and Cat-like Moves”, by Bec Crew | May 3, 2014
If you want to make an acquaintance with one of these colorful showmen, you’ve got to head to Australia. Here’s an excerpt from the article - which also has a link to a video where you can watch these spiders put on their show:
Spotted by David Knowles, who runs a company in Perth, Western Australia that educates the public about invertebrates and biosurvey called Spineless Wonders, 20 years ago, the species has been formally described in the journal Peckhamia by Sydney-based biologist Jurgen Otto and the journal’s editor, David Hill. The unique spotty pattern on the male’s abdomen flap, plus its slinky, cat-like movements, prompted the pair to name it after the leopard – ‘pardus’ comes from the Ancient Greek word for ‘leopard’.
“It is the only species with such distinct spots on the back, and therefore can be easily distinguished from other peacock spiders, quite beautiful I think,” says Otto. “The cat-like behaviour is not unique to this species, and in fact is shared by all jumping spiders. They very slowly approach their prey and then pounce on them.”
Having examined 30 specimens, including males, females, and juveniles, Otto and Hill have identified the equally beautiful Maratus volans as the species’ closest relative. According to their records, M. pardus is now known from the subcoastal swamplands of Cape Le Grand National Park, about 630 km south-east of Perth, and from an unspecified area near Ravensthorpe, some 540 km south-east of Perth.
If you can’t get to Australia any time soon, you can always check out the local arachnids. Someone once told me that you’re never more than three feet from a spider. If you’d like to get to know your eight-legged neighbors a little better, here’s an article from spiders.us that showcases a few of the over 4,000 known species who live in North America.