A Halloween Spiderpalooza

Who could be afraid of this? Juvenile peacock spider (Maratus albus)
(all photos courtesy of Jürgen Otto)

Jürgen Otto is passionate about spiders: not just any spiders, but the tiny Australian creatures known as peacock spiders. Famous for their brilliant colors and intricately patterned courtship dances, their genus, Maratus, includes sixty-seven species and subspecies.

The first peacock spider was described by British arachnologist Octavius Pickard-Cambridge in 1874. In the past decade, Otto and his colleague David Hill have discovered more than half of the currently documented species. One species has been found in China, but the others all live in Australia, primarily in the bushlands on the southern portion of the continent.

Peacock spiders are so small (the one in the photo above is sitting on a pencil) that most people don’t notice them, even in the heart of their territories. Recalling his own first encounter with a peacock spider, Otto says:

I did not know anything about them until I stumbled over one during a walk in nearby bushland [near Sydney] purely by accident. It attracted my attention in the way it jumped — it seemed more nimble than other spiders. The specimen I saw then was one of Maratus volans, and I had no idea at the time what it was or that there were other similar species.
Maratus volans in his full glory, with abdominal flaps extended
A true thumbnail portrait of Maratus volans ~ notice the folded abdominal flaps

For many years, people believed that peacocks (a variety of jumping spider) used the flaps on the sides of their abdomens to glide through the air, but no one actually had seen them use the flaps for any purpose. Eventually, Otto’s research unearthed a suggestion or two that Maratus volans used its flaps in courtship, and his work with the spiders confirmed it.

When a male peacock spider encounters a female, he initiates courtship by waving his legs like semaphore flags. If she seems interested,  he raises the flaps at his sides and displays his brilliantly colored abdomen while dancing back and forth.

If he performs well and the female finds him acceptable, they will mate; occasionally, the female will do her own little dance of acceptance. But color patterns and dance moves are species-specific, meaning that males with atypical dances, or color patterns that resemble those of a different species, can come to a sorry end.

There’s little sentimentality among female peacock spiders. If she doesn’t approve of the dance, or mistakes his abdominal pattern for that of an unfamiliar species, she’ll often have the male for lunch — as the main course.

 
The mating dance of a Maratus personatus (who apparently was refused, but lived to tell the tale)

Watching one of Otto’s  videos, it’s easy to assume the spiders are dancing in the wild. But most videos are shot in his home, where he maintains a “spider room” for studying and documenting the various species in every stage of development.

At one point, he kept a pile of leaves on the dining room table for photo shoots, until his wife objected, and other accomodations had to be made. As for the filming itself, Otto’s techniques are relatively simple:

 When I started to film them, I had no idea about how to go about it. I simply thought one day to explore the video option on my DSLR, a Canon 7D with a 100mm macro lens. So I just kept filming them and added scene after scene to my collection. I had no prior experience in editing video footage.
The equipment that professional documentary makers use is very different from mine, with much larger cameras, big steady tripods etc., and for a while I thought that getting such equipment would be something to strive for.
However, I now realize that the small, simple, and cheap setup I used was almost ideal for the job as it allowed me to follow the spiders on the ground and use natural lighting. Once you find a place where they occur, you simply have to search for specimens and watch them or, better, find a pair that is already engaged in some courtship.

Otto’s affection for his subjects is obvious, as is his hope that people introduced to them will develop the same affection. He often mentions that the spiders are considered cute, even by self-declared arachnophobes, and that he “loves the way they interact with their environment: how they exhibit fear, excitement, and curiosity.” Seen through his eyes, the spiders are less fearful than fascinating: the very opposite of the Halloween horror they’re often portrayed to be.

What’s also clear is that he enjoys their dancing, and sometimes is amused by it. I suspect only someone with a great deal of affection for these creatures and an ability to be amused by them would have come up with this video. It’s a musical tribute with a sly title. For the male peacock spider, staying alive certainly does depend on his ability to dance his tiny little heart out.

Comments always are welcome.
For more videos, see Jürgen Otto’s YouTube channel.  For photos, try his Flickr page.
For a hilarious video of a peacock spider dancing to the Village People’s “YMCA,” click here.
For some serious science, PECKHAMIA, the major publication of the Peckham Society, is a good source. Founded in 1977 as an informal alliance of amateur and professional naturalists or scientists with an interest in jumping spider research, the society was named in honor of George and Elizabeth Peckham, early pioneers in their study.

103 thoughts on “A Halloween Spiderpalooza

    1. The colors and patterns are wonderful, aren’t they? Can’t you imagine them replicated in needlepoint? They’d work so well as pillows, or even seat cushions. It certainly would be a fun project. I don’t think I’ll do it, but I do still have some needlepoint canvas!

  1. I’d never heard of a Peacock Spider before! They’re kinda cute, I guess, but I’d totally FREAK if one popped up in front of me! Amazing colors they’re exhibiting, and I do appreciate their fur.

    1. I hadn’t heard of them either, Debbie. Now that I know they exist, I’d not mind seeing them in real life, but they’re so small I’m sure it would be less satisfying than seeing them this way. What really intrigues me is how many more species they’ll find. So many have been discovered in such a short time, I’d bet that there are more lurking out there — probably working on their dance moves.

  2. Absolutely fantasic pictures! :)
    I had to google, btw, waht “Spiderpalooza” is/means. Now I have enlarged my vocabulary. If I will ever be able to use this word? Who knows?! ;)
    Have a wonderful Sunday afternoon and evening,
    Pit

    1. Here’s something funny, Pit. I had no idea there’s a site actually called Spiderpalooza. When I chose the title, I was playing off the name of the annual music festivals in Chicago and elsewhere called Lollapalooza.

      The word “lollapolooza” is defined as someone or something that’s extraordinarily impressive, or an outstanding example. I’d say that fits these spiders, but you’ll probably find more use for “lollapalooza” than “spiderpalooza”!

  3. I am not much for spiders, but this one does seem to have “personality.” I especially love the bright eyes! Nevertheless, I hope you have the spider room sealed off. :)

    1. I suspect — no, I know — I have spiders running all over my place, but I’m sure Mr. Otto keeps his spider room secure. For one thing, he’s pretty committed to returning his subjects to the places where he finds them. I read that he’s driven as much as fourteen hours one way to take one of his little friends home. He and his fellow researchers are pretty amazing guys.

  4. What an amazing post, Linda! If someone had told me that reading it would send me off to YouTube to view spider videos, I wouldn’t have believed them. I even posted one on my Facebook about the 10 most amazing spiders in the world. The Peacock was 3 or 4. I hate all spiders but Daddy Long Legs and now the Peacock spiders. They are so cute and I really enjoyed the link you posted on my blog of them dancing to Y.M.C.A.

    1. Honestly? My response to spiders in the past was pretty much “see spider, squash spider.” I wasn’t exactly afraid of them, but I didn’t like them, and I especially didn’t like running face first into their webs. But eventually I started meeting some pretty cool varieties, like the jumping spiders and the orb-weavers, and I stopped squashing them.

      There are some amazing videos available, that’s for sure. I’m glad you found one to share. These little critters are cute, and they’re not at all dangerous to humans. Not only that, their babies might be even cuter.

  5. They are a romantic lot, aren’t they? At least the males take the time to go through courtships as shown by some very deft dance moves. I am not so sure about ending up as lunch by a disgruntled female. That’s very mean.
    Do those females meet after and talk about their nice lunches?

    1. Now, there’s a question for our intrepid researchers, Gerard. I’m not sure how social they are, but it’s fun to speculate over, isn’t it?

      On the other hand, you’re living smack in the middle of their territory. Keep your eyes open — you might find one willing to answer all your questions. It seems that most specimens have been found in the bush, but there could be some who’ve moved to the cities, too. Check those flower pots closely!

  6. What an interesting and beautiful little creature. I’ve never seen one, but then I am very short-sighted (with only distance glasses these days).

    I’m not a fan of spiders myself – having been way too close to a couple of venomous ones for comfort. In fact I can’t sleep in a room with a spider in it.

    1. I think Mr. Otto must have very good eyesight, as well as being well-attuned to the comings and goings of these creatures. I read that the largest is about the size of a pencil eraser. I can imagine they’re easy to overlook.

      I’m not particularly fond of spiders in the house myself, but they’re all over the boats I work on. Most are harmless, but I had a very bad experience with what we think must have been a brown recluse, so I can understand your caution. On the other hand, you’re living in peacock spider territory, so if you see something when you’re out and about that looks like a fast-moving bit of color, you might take a second look.

      1. To be honest, Linda, I only have distance glasses so don’t see insects (usually) until I get the image on the big 27″ screen. I seem to remember getting 3 different insects on the one flower and didn’t see them outdoors at the time of shooting at all. Butterflies are ok though.

    1. Wonderful is the word. It wouldn’t hurt a thing if we were so colorfully arrayed, either. The spiders’ patterns and colors remind me of the combinations I’ve seen in Africa and in photos from Central and South America. Some describe such combinations as flamboyant, but I think “vibrant” works just as well.

  7. Of course I’m wondering how you discovered Otto and his peacock spider fascination (or should I say obsession, given his use of the dining room table for spider photo shoots). They certainly are amazing little creatures.

    1. I couldn’t remember at first where I bumped into these. All I knew was that suddenly I was watching and re-watching disco-dancing spiders.

      When I went into my browser history, I found the source. I follow a site known as Atlas Obscura, and they had mentioned the discovery of two new peacock species: Sparklemuffin and Skeletorus. Aren’t those great names? Maratus jactatus is nicknamed “Sparklemuffin” for its sparkly muffin of a butt, and Maratus sceletus is nicknamed “Skeletorus” because it looks like it’s put on a skeleton costume to go trick-or-treating.

      Speaking of: wouldn’t it be cool to go to a Halloween party dressed as one of these spiders?

      1. Sparklemuffin and Skeletorus! Love that. And oh, yes, what costumes they would make! Reminds me that I was in a part of Brooklyn Saturday that is “happening” in a low-rent way, when young people still have a chance to afford the rent,. Folks were all decked out, everywhere, in prep-for-Halloween costumes! But NONE as good as the peacock spider would have been.

  8. It is just astounding how intricate things are and how creative God is to have so many interesting creatures! Such detail! Just think of the many things we have no knowledge of yet! keep writing!!!!

    1. That is the other side of it, Elizabeth. What we know is amazing, but what we don’t yet know? It’s impossible to judge how many more marvels there are. And you’re right that the intricacy of even the smallest creatures points beyond itself. It’s what makes the world infinitely interesting, and lovable.

  9. Oh my. Much more fascinating than fearful. Reminds me I should get out the magnifying glass for the tiny spiders instead of brushing them off. But these are truly amazing and boy can they dance. The female, however, looks a bit dismayed. The Staying Alive video was hilarious. Thank you for sharing.

    1. I fear my tiny spiders wouldn’t be nearly so exotic as these. We tend to do plain brown around here, or brown and black, or the occasional black and white. I’ve only seen the bigger ones fancied up, but of course I don’t spend much time searching out spiders.

      I laughed when I saw that female, too. I’m sure I’m thinking of the same image you mentioned. She looks like my mother used to when dad started having too much fun at a party. The only thing missing is the eye roll.

      I love the “Staying Alive” video, but “YMCA” is a close second. I really laughed when I scrolled through the comments and found someone saying, “Well, this is great and all, but that spider only knows how to make a ‘Y’.”

  10. I like Gerard O’s idea of the ladies who lunch talking about their meal. And obituary and restaurant review in one.
    “R.I.P. A good dancer, snappy dresser, always with an eye for the ladies, actually, quite a few eyes, and definitely a man of good taste.”

    1. That would cover all the bases, wouldn’t it? Given those extravagant patterns, not much attention gets paid to their jewel-like eyes, but they’re just as remarkable. I remembered reading something about them, and found this:

      “The greatest attribute of jumping spiders is their advanced eyes. Spiders’ eyes are generally quite simple organs, specks of black or silver that can detect light and dark, shadow and movement and some fairly rudimentary blurry images, even at low light levels.

      The two central front eyes of the jumping spider are much more advanced – large, fronted by spherical lenses, with an internal focussing mechanism and complex four layered retina. All this means that a jumping spider can see fine detail, in colour and at different distances.”

      That helps to explain those colored patterns, I suspect. It’s hard to say which came first, the eyes or the flashy abdomens. Maybe they developed together. But it seems that in this case, it’s the girls who are singing “I Only Have Eyes For You.”

  11. Thanks for an interesting post. What wonderful little spiders. I’m as fascinated by all the eyes as by the colorfulness and the varied patterns.

    1. I added some information about their eyes in my comment to Rob, just above. It helps to explain why I sometimes feel our jumping spiders are looking at me — they probably are. These little peacock spiders have taken it one step further and added beauty to utility. I think their eyes are gorgeous — like little jewels.

  12. From an artistic perspective, I find these spiders fascinating. If you could detach their abdomens from the legs and put them in a coloring book, I might like them a lot. But I believe you are on a quest to give me the shivers week to week – first with a menacing green caterpillar and now with spiders, no matter how small and colorful! Eeek

    1. I’d never thought of a coloring book. The spiders’ patterns would make great subjects for one of those. What had come to mind were needlepoint pillows, or chair seats and backs. You could make some gorgeous designs from those patterns.

      Honestly, Lex, I’m not trying to creepy-crawly you out. But I’ll see if I can’t come up with something a little less traumatizing for my next entry. The third time might not be a charm, and I’d hate to see you run screaming down the blog-alley!

  13. This is so interesting and I was inspired to look at Otto’s Flickr photos. His photos are excellent. And then I could not stop looking around and found flamingoes “dancing” to a Michael Jackson song. I thought it was too good not to share so I posted it to my FB page and gave your blog and this post credit as my inspiration.

    Those tiny spiders have the best names. One was named for Australia and another was named for Tasmania. All the names were actually very nice. Loved this post, Linda.

    1. Two of the most recent discoveries have equally delightful names Maratus jactatus is nicknamed “Sparklemuffin” for its sparkly abdomen, and Maratus sceletus is nicknamed “Skeletorus” because it looks like it’s put on a skeleton costume to go trick-or-treating. Clearly, everyone involved with these critters is enjoying their work.

      I think it’s great that citizen scientists are at the heart of revealing these creatures to the world. Otto didn’t apply for a grant, or write scientific papers after he discovered the first one. He took their photos, made videos, and started some websites. Voila! People like you and me are sitting around admiring Australian spiders that we’ll never see in person. Sometimes the internet is awful, but sometimes it’s wonderful.

  14. Incredibly beautiful little creatures, and I just don’t have the right words to describe that video! It’s no wonder that Otto is passionate about them. I have only seen one species of jumping spider, the Johnson’s: it was much larger although with about the same physical configuration. It did have a multi-colored and quite bright abdomen, but I had no chance to observe any kind of dance or display.

    1. Your Johnson’s jumping spider is impressive. It looks to be about the same size as a large black and white one I’ve only seen once. Most of the jumpers I see are relatively small, and they always seem startled to have wandered into human territory.

      Part of what makes the videos so charming and amusing is that I’ve done enough crawling around on the ground at this point to have a pretty good understanding of what it’s taken to produce them. Even though he does some of his work at home, he apparently spends a good bit of time out in the field, too — looking for new species. What a life!

  15. I can’t speak for your other women readers out there but if my husband went to the same efforts as these little power packs of sexual energy, who knows what would happen. Good God, they are adorable. Remind me of little guys who think they are Amazonians in the deep jungle just trying to make a connection. Very fun post.

    1. I was casting around for a way to acknowledge the fun of Halloween when I found these spiders, who appeared to be already in costume and ready for tricks and treats. The more I read about them — and watched those videos — the more enchanted I became. Setting them to the BeeGees didn’t hurt. I hope the spiders are having as much fun with their dancing as we’re having watching them. Of course, in their case, the fun’s probably tinged with a little anxiety.

  16. I must admit that they are cool little dudes. Affection? No, I don’t think I could reach that level, but I will definitely show this post to H. He admires spiders. I hope it doesn’t lead to leaves on my table and a spider room in my house.

    Those little guys put their all into romance, don’t they?

    1. I’m pretty sure H understands there are limits, and spiders running amok in the dining room would cross at least one of them. I do love these little glimpses into worlds we hardly can imagine. Think of all the dramas going on all around us, while we’re busy with making a grocery list or washing the car. It’s amazing.

      I think one thing that makes these tiny spiders so interesting is that they patterns aren’t just different, one from another, they’re really different. I’m just certain there still are species to be discovered, and I can’t wait to see what those patterns look like.

  17. I’m laughing my head off, and will never be able to listen to “Staying Alive” without dissolving into gales of laughter! And some of the comments are hilarious also!
    I do believe I’ve seen some of these little fellows, but wasn’t aware of their flag waving capacity. Now I WILL be on the hunt for them.
    I’d love to go to a party dressed as one of these spiders, and dance about waving my ‘arms’ – what a hoot!

    1. I wondered if you might have seen some. Now you can be on the lookout — and who knows? This has been such a citizen scientist project, you’ve got as good a chance as anyone at discovering the next species. In truth, you probably have a better chance than most, just because of the way you’re traveling.

      If you ever decide to make yourself a costume, we want photos. And if you party in that costume, we want video of the dancing!

  18. Linda, you know I’m in love with this post. The more exposure I have to spiders, the more I appreciate them.I am the girl who doesn’t mind them in the house or gently removes them to the outdoors. I was quite amused this morning with those videos, but the still images took my breath away. That first photo of the peacock on the pencil, made me think it was some type of jewelry adornment – intricate metal work encrusted with the tiniest of jewels. Otto’s work in capturing the peacock’s miniature world is nothing short of brilliant!

    1. There was a time in the 1950s and 1960s when insect jewelry seemed to be all the rage. My mother had a couple of pins, including a pretty turquoise bug, that were just lovely. These spiders could be transformed in the same way, I think.

      We’re thick with baby spiders here now, flying on their silk. They’re hard to see. Unless I happen aacross one on a boat, the only time I know they’re around is when the sun catches their silk, or I feel it across my face. The spiders themselves are mostly invisible, but there must be hundreds of thousands of them flying through the air.

      I agree with you about the quality of Otto’s photos. It was interesting to read that he started out with the same macro lens I have — except he’s put it to far better use.

    1. Didn’t you mention her in one of your posts? Those big orb weavers are so cool. I found one in East Columbia a couple of years ago that had one of those zig-zag patterns in its web. It was the first time I’d seen that. Now, I’ve seen two different kinds of web decorations, but for the sake of my readers who don’t enjoy spiders, I think I’d better put that post off for a while. Have you ever done any spiders or webs in glass? I can imagine they’d be beautiful.

  19. Of course you HAD to do spiders!! But, then I don’t let archnophobia get in the way of a good shoot either. But, telephoto comes in handy for that since if one ever jumped off the web my way, my camera would probably be a loss.

    1. I’ve been trying to remember if a spider ever has jumped at me. I don’t think any has. But I take your point about the value of a long lens when faced with creepy-crawlies.

      I couldn’t find the link, but one NWS office recently posted that what appeared to be snow on a sensor or cam actually was spider webs. Honestly, I think I hate the webs more than the spiders — especially in the woods, when I run face-first into one of those big ones stretched across a path. Of course, the spider probably hates the clumsy humans who destroy her work, too, so I guess we’re even.

  20. John Travolta should have such moves … . Linda, these little spiders are awe-inspiring and Otto’s work is simply amazing. Jumping spiders have always been my favourites, tho’ our native ones are nowhere near as colourful. Their little headlight eyes follow you with avid interest and their jumping abilities are spectacular. Thanks so much for this post. A keeper for sure. :-)

    1. They are fun, aren’t they? I’d only seen very small black and white ones until a trip to our hill country, where I found a much larger one (Phidippus audax) on the pad of a prickly pear. It was so far away I had to use my telephoto lens, and I didn’t know enough about them at the time to try and maneuver around for a look at its eyes, but it still was impressive.

      They do seem curious and interested, don’t they? I’m anxious to find more, and take a better look at them. It’s been fun learning about them through these peacock spiders.

  21. What a great story and photos, Linda. I really liked the dances and the faces on the abdomens. No wonder these tiny creatures have made it into Halloween lore. Having said that, I am really glad that my courting rituals didn’t include dancing, at least skilled dancing. I am afraid I would have been dinner ever so long ago. –Curt

    1. So many of the designs remind me of tribal masks. In fact, I did some browsing, just to see if I could find some good parallels among Australian aborigines. There were any that came close to being replicas, but there still were hints — like the resemblance of spiral petroglyphs to datura buds. We’ll never know whether early people knew these spiders, but I suspect they did. Not having television, or the internet, or Amazon Prime, they had more time to watch the world around them.

      As for the dancing, every species of peacock spider has its own moves. Knowing Peggy as I do, even from a distance, I’d say your moves paid off just fine, Curt.

      1. I always like your curiosity and where it takes you Linda. My experience with ancient peoples is that they had a much greater awareness of their environment than we do. Lacking magnification, they may not have been quite as appreciative of the tiny spider faces, but I’ll bet they were aware.
        As to the latter… :) –Curt

    1. The eyes certainly are remarkable, aren’t they? I became curious about what they eat, and found that they can tackle prey several times their size (like crickets) because of their ability to inject venom. Of course they’re no threat to us at all. Those tiny little jaws couldn’t open far enough to bite us even if they wanted to — which I don’t think they do. Glad you enjoyed their antics!

  22. Adorable! I don’t have an open door policy on spiders. My agreement is that they stay outside and they won’t get hurt. But, sometimes if mosquitoes have invaded the house then I leave a few good hunters in their chosen corners.

    The only spider I like is the jumping spider. I will always help them back outside, always move them along to avoid being squished. And I’ve been known to play at jousting with them time to time.

    1. From your comment, and those of others (as well as reports from Otto and the other researchers) it seems to me that jumping spiders are more open to interaction with us than I’d ever imagined. I know the ones I find on the boats are prone to sit around and watch what I’m doing: at least, it feels that way. They certainly don’t scuttle off like many of our other species.

      I do have a fondness for crab spiders, too — and for the spiny orb weavers, which come in white, orange, red, yellow, and maybe other colors as well. The stereotypical Halloween spider isn’t nearly so interesting.

    1. There are some even more fascinating videos in Otto’s collection. I’m impressed by his work, but I’m equally impressed with his willingness to share it so freely, and to present it in a way that makes it accessible to the general public. It certainly has been fun to spend a little time browsing his photos and videos.

    1. Here’s another tidbit I’ve discovered. The males not only dance, they do a little occasional drumming, too. The vibrations are picked up by the females, and help to get their attention. If someone invented these creatures, no one would believe it.

  23. cute spiders! just last night i photographed one very large spider, and it wasn’t very cute! it was interesting, however!

    i’m in a cyber so will wait til next time online for the videos…

    looks like a cold snap has swept down your way… stay warm, and happy halloween!

    1. Cold snap? Come and gone, my dear. We have some lovely, warm, soupy weather that’s rolled back in, and the humidity’s heading back up. It looks like we’ll have another warm week, until the next cool front. No cold in the books — not yet.

      I had a jumping spider show up at work today, and it was fun to get eye-to-eye with it. It was larger than these, though not by much. It was fun to watch it watching me — until it scuttled under a line and disappeared.

      I’m more tolerant of big spiders now: especially the orb weavers. Big, black, and fuzzy ones? Not so much — although visible ones are easier to avoid than the sneaky little ones that bite.

      It occurs to me that some of the peacock spider designs would profit by your mola treatment. They could be stylized, and outlined in black, they’d be quite something.

  24. Truth is stranger than fiction! Absolutely astounding. There are so many different “looks” to them. What do they have in common that makes them peacock spiders? Perhaps the side flaps? Their dancing routine? Their color? Of the sixty-seven species and subspecies, what in common makes them peacock spiders? Thanks again for enlarging my world.

    1. They’re remarkable, aren’t they?

      Here’s how I understand what happened. When the first peacock spider was discovered, it was clear that it was a jumping spider. But it wasn’t quite like other members of the jumping spider family (the Salticidae). It didn’t fit into any of the other groups (or genera) so it got a genus of its own, called Maratus.

      Today, the species that have been added to that genus have some things in common: the colorful patterns, some differences in their eyes (they can see more colors than other spiders) and of course that ability to raise their abdomen and then open up its flaps to dance around and entice the ladies.

      So, you already had it figured out. What you listed — the side flaps, the dancing, the colors — all help to define them as peacock spiders. I’m following Otto on YouTube and some other sites now. If (when?) he finds another species, it will be exciting.

  25. Oh, my stars! I laughed and laughed at those videos. The things guys to to impress the girls, though the results are not always as fraught with danger as spider courtship.

    I love little jumping spiders. I see some outside, from time to time, though not as fancy as these gentlemen.

    I was not, however, particularily thrilled about the black widow Hubby found setting up housekeeping in our mailbox this summer.

    1. No, I wouldn’t be particularly happy to find a black widow setting up shop, either. I had a brush with another bad one, the brown recluse, and that was enough for me. These are more my style: cute and appealing, amusing as can be, and infinitely interesting.

      Best of all, despite having venom, there’s no way they can bite us; their mouths are too small. They can take down something as large as a cricket, though. Maybe they dance them to death.

        1. Actually, I don’t. I remember Charles, of course, but his snowflakes and ice crystals are what I associate him with. I went over to the WU archives and found some of his photos still are there, but no spiders. Too bad — and too bad so much history was lost over there. It’s a reminder to me to get busy and save all of my blog posts. Some day WordPress may fall to the same sorry fate.

  26. When I was in the central desert in Australia with my last sabbatical I didn’t see any of these! If only I knew, I would have brought along a tripod and tried to get in the act. Maybe next time…

    1. From what I’ve seen of Australia’s myriad delights, it makes perfect sense that you’d miss these. Of course, it’s always harder to see things we don’t know exist. Seeing is believing, as they say, but sometimes believing is seeing!

  27. I just admire the novelty and uniqueness of your posts! This is a ‘spook’tacular one, I must say. Peacock spider, a Spider room, dancing spiders all opened a new world to me. Waiting for your next blog, Linda.

    1. Every now and then I come across something so unusual that it really compels my attention, rethy, and I think, “If I find this so interesting, other people might, too.” In a way, I’m as taken by the thought of the photographer chasing spiders through the leaves on his dining room table as I am by the spiders themselves. It’s wonderful that he helped to open up a new world to all of us.

  28. Oh, these colorful little creatures are fascinating! Their appearance could well be examples of life we might associate with having come from a different planet. Quite an agile courting dance that gives new meaning to the expression “dancing for your life”. Spiders can be intriguing. I’m prompted to recall an early childhood memory of my decade older brother carefully protecting a spider that overnight had constructed a web on the edge of his Model T car’s window. He had driven our mother and me to visit our out of town grandparents where we had stayed overnight. We studied that spider intensely as my brother shared with me why we should respect this life. Curious to me that this is the primary, actually sole vivid visual memory that I have of that rare trip — a spider and its web, the car and my high school age brother.

    1. I suspect all of us have those isolated but sharp memories from our early years; yours is an especially nice one.

      Several of the wildlife refuges and nature centers in my area have programs for children as young as pre-school, or as old as junior high. They provide opportunities for kids who don’t have a brother like yours to learn first-hand about marvels like that little spider, and why they should be respected.

      They help to overcome fears, too. When it comes to creatures like spiders, caution is appropriate, but knowledge helps to sort out which can harm, and which are just darned cute — like these wonderful “dancers.”

    1. I thought about that little coincidence of the names when I first came across Jürgen Otto’s work. He’s a wonderful example of someone who just jumped in and taught himself the skills he needed along the way — more than once, I thought that he must have read some of your advice!

      He certainly has found a fascinating specialty. My hope is that he’ll find even more species, and photograph them as beautifully as he has these.

  29. This is pretty fascinating. Otto sounds like a pretty cool guy but I’m glad he does his spiders in his home, not mine! The photos are remarkable — boy, did you ever catch the detail, the colors, the light. I loved the one with the pencil and thumbnail, too. Really wonderful for scale. I can’t say spiders are my favorites but they aren’t a freak-out to me, either and I would love to see these in action with their fabulous colors and their dancing! I love it — Dancing Spiders. Sounds like a Disney cartoon. I loved this post Linda. But you knew I would!

    1. I can’t take credit for any of the photos, Jeanie. They all are Jürgen Otto’s. But you’re right about the quality. It still amazes me that it’s possible not only to get photos of such tiny creatures, but also to capture videos. Believe me, I’ve laughed a time or six thinking about him crawling around on the ground, chasing those spiders. I suspect the cutting room floor is knee-deep in outtakes. OK — hip deep!

      Dancing Spiders does sound Disney-ish, doesn’t it? Remember the flamingos from Fantasia 2000?

    1. Like you, I’ve always thought of spiders as brown or black. Sometimes, they were patterned, like garden spiders, but I certainly never imagined anything like these. On the other hand, the more I look around, the more I’ve seen colorful spiders in my own neighborhood: I’ve seen spiny orb weavers like this one in yellow, white, and orange. I’ve yet to get a photo as good as the one I linked, but I’m working on it.

  30. This is awesome, Linda! Thank you for posting it. I am a life-long arachnophile (the opposite of an acrachnophobe). I have always been fascinated by them and always observe them whenever I can. I also have a live-and-let-live attitude towards them. If I find one roaming around the house I scoop it up in a special box I have and set it outside. I don’t care if they live in my attic or in my garage. I feel that they keep out things that I really don’t want in my house. Thanks for an awesome post!

    1. I can’t imagine any arachnophile not enjoying these little guys. The internet’s filled with fabulous byways, and this was one. I probably ended up watching every one of Otto’s videos, completely entranced.

      I’d be more than willing to transport our little black and white jumping spiders to the great outdoors, but they keep getting away from me. I’ve never found any other kind inside the house, so I don’t worry about it too much. I just sweep up the little piles of corpses they leave in the corners of windows, and go on my way. If they don’t bother me, I won’t bother them.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post!

      1. I’m definitely a spider lover and I adore these cuties! They are so colorful, and their motions are so exaggerated you can easily see their emotions. I’ve found for myself that trapping house spiders with a bowl and then slipping a piece of cardstock under it is a great way to transport them out of the house and safely outdoors without doing any damage, and it helps prevent anyone else in the household killing them when they get surprised.

        1. That is a perfect way to catch and move them — good for you, for doing it. I’m glad you enjoyed these, too. They’re a perfect example of the marvelous variety nature provides to us. Not only that, they’re good dancers!

  31. Peacock spiders are indeed beautiful (and cute). Here we have little zebra spiders which are similar – they jump, too – and if you move they follow you with their eyes, turning their bodies in your direction.

    1. Yours are cute, too. Their similarities with the peacock spiders are obvious, especially the eyes. It’s so interesting to read details about their behavior — it’s far more complex than I ever imagined. The thought crossed my mind that the peacock spiders are just jumping spiders that have been all dolled up by a really good color artist!

    1. I’m so new to their world, I hardly know a thing about them. But I know that crab spiders are cute, and spiny orb weavers are the punk-meisters of the spider world, and there’s not much in the world more impressive than a big garden spider. I suppose if they were eating my bees, I’d not be happy, but on the other hand: everyone’s got to eat!

    1. Both are true. Despite the internet’s shortcomings, it is a fine way for us to enjoy the work of people a world away, that we otherwise would miss entirely. Imagine — I’m subscribed to an Australian photographer’s YouTube channel so I’ll know when he discovers another species of peacock spider. What a world!

      1. We hear talk of going to other planets… of other life forms in the universe… light years away. If only we would first learn to communicate with the species here, we might discover that we’ve barely begun to get to know our own planet. Of course we’d have to move fast if we want to learn anything before we kill off all life on the planet…

        1. I’m more sanguine than some about the planet’s ability to survive us — but I take your point. What I do know is that we are a part of creation, and we sever our ties with the rest of the created order at our peril. Of course, the thought that we might be created — and hence limited and contingent — doesn’t sit well with many people today.

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