All photos: Jurgen Otto
Over the past several centuries, human society has compiled a pretty hefty list of all the living organisms on our planet, but from the darkest depths of the ocean to the most remote rain forests in the world, there's still so much we have yet to uncover.
That's why it's always exhilarating to hear of scientists discovering new species. So who are the new kids on the block this time?
Meet Maratus jactatus and Maratus sceletus (above, left to right). The Maratus genus of jumping spiders is endemic to Australia and are commonly referred to as "peacock spiders" due the way the males wield their ostentatious abdomens during their extravagant courtship dance rituals.
Affectionately nicknamed "Sparklemuffin" and "Skeletorus" for their respective markings, this flamboyant peacock spider duo was discovered in Southeast Queensland, Australia by UC-Berkeley graduate student Madeline Girard.
The little guys were later photographed by entomologist Jurgen Otto, who published the images in an article he co-authored for the journal Peckhamia, which specializes in jumping spiders.
Otto runs a truly fascinating Flickr dedicated to peacock spiders, and as amazing the images are, just wait until you see the videos! In the clip below, we see a specimen of the Maratus caeruleus perform his special courtship routine before finally wooing his mate and engaging in a little "50 Shades of Spider":
There are currently 43 documented species of these peacock spiders, though Otto speculates in a LiveScience story that it may just be the tip of the iceberg:
"[Maratus sceletus] looks dramatically different than all other peacock spiders known to date, making me think that this group is perhaps much more perse than we had thought. Despite the large number of species we have discovered just in the last few years, I can't help feeling that we may have just scratched the surface of this most exciting group of spiders, and that nature has quite a few more surprises in store."
Take a closer look at Sparklemuffin and Skeletorus in the images below:
Sparklemuffin (Maratus jactatus)
It takes a person with specific interests to call a spider "cute," but you have to admit — with these good looks, Sparklemuffin must be the life of all arachnid parties. (Seriously, is this little spidey on his way to a disco or something?)
And here we see Sparklemuffin making a smooth move on that pretty arachnid lady in the corner.
Skeletorus (Maratus sceletus)
Needless to say, this little goth dude is named for the black and white markings that give him an obvious resemblance to a skeleton.
Skeletorus may not be as glam or dolled up as Sparklemuffin, but we hear he has a great personality.