Maratus

Diversity

Maratus, also known as the peacock spider, is a genus of jumping spiders found within the family Salticidae. The immense diversity within this family rivals that of birds (Girarb and Endler, 2014). Salticidae is made up of 592 genera and about 5,615 described species. Many species remain undiscovered and unnamed within the family (Marfil et al., 2014). Relationships between species in Maratus are not well understood. Evidence based on morphology suggests that this genus has about 59 different species, with more that have yet to be discovered (Girarb and Endler, 2014). (Girarb and Endler, 2014; Marfil, et al., 2014)

Geographic Range

Species in the genus Maratus are found in the southern-half of the Australian continent. Several species are geographically restricted to particular niches while others have wide distributions (Girarb and Endler, 2014). (Girarb and Endler, 2014)

Habitat

Species in Maratus are found in a variety of habitats, ranging from semi-arid to temperate coastal areas. Some species inhabit only one kind of habitat while others occupy a wide variety of habitats, including sand dunes, grasslands, heaths, and in leaf-litter under Eucalyptus woodlands (Girarb and Endler, 2014). Peacock spiders are mostly active during their respective breeding seasons which differ based on the gender of the spider. They do not spin webs or create nests, instead they are constantly moving and hunting (Arnold, 2015) making them active outside of their breeding seasons as well. Pregnant females create nests underground in-order to lay and guard their egg sacs until they hatch. The eggs hatch at different times based on gender. Males hatch in August and can survive through December. Females emerge from the nests later and tend to survive later than the males. Periods of activity often differ due to Maratus living in many different habitats. (Girarb and Endler, 2014). (Arnold, 2015; Girarb and Endler, 2014)

Physical Description

Maratus species are small spiders, averaging 4 millimeters in length. The males are known for their unique coloration which has earned them the name peacock spiders. Colors vary from red, orange, white, cream, and blue; each having different textures and shapes on them. The diverse coloration of the male peacock spider is due to microscopic scales, or modified hairs, that cover its body. Studies have shown that the scales that are colored white, cream, and red typically have elaborate shapes with numerous spines and pigmentation (Stavenga, Otto, and Wilts, 2016). Further testing has shown that the red bands on Maratus spiders consist of a dense array of scales that vary in color from scarlet-red to cream-yellow. Adjacent scales consists of blues, purples, or are colorless (Stavenga, Otto, and Wilts, 2016). Females lack this vibrant coloring and are instead a plain brown color (Biddulph, 2013). (Biddulph, 2013; Stavenga, et al., 2016)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • female larger
  • male more colorful

Reproduction

Maratus males use their vibrant coloration and an elaborate dance to court females for reproduction. (Girard, Kasumovic, and Elias, 1874). Courtship begins with males perching themselves atop a high surface and waving their third pair of legs. When a female is spotted, he begins producing vibrations that the female is able to detect through the ground (Girarb and Endler, 2014). Once the female is facing the male, he unfolds his opisthosomal flaps (a flat folded section of the spiders abdomen). The opisthosomal flaps fan out in a way that mimics peacocks tail feathers. The male continues the display by alternating displays of the fan and third pair of legs. The male Maratus spider will continue this display for up to 50 minutes or until the female decides to mate or not (Girard, Kasumovic, and Elias, 1874). (Girarb and Endler, 2014; Girard, et al., 1874)

Maratus species are most active during their breeding season, during the Australian spring. Males mature earlier than females mature. Males seek out mates as early as August and as late as December. Whereas mature females appear later and last later. However, females do become more scarce in December due to them nesting in the ground where they lay sacs of eggs, each consisting of hundreds of spiders (Girarb and Endler, 2014). (Girarb and Endler, 2014)

Little research has been down studying the parental investment of Maratus spiders when raising their young. Females will hide away after courtship and lay her eggs in a place in which she can guard them. (Girarb and Endler, 2014). (Girarb and Endler, 2014)

Lifespan/Longevity

Maratus spiders lifespan in captivity is unknown due to little research. Observations show that peacock spiders have been affected by habitat destruction in Australia, which might be a limiting factor on their lifespan (Pandika, 2013). (Pandika, 2013)

Behavior

The only recorded information about interactive behaviors between Maratus and other spiders is for mating purposes. Otherwise, the genus is considered solitary. (Nieuwenhuys and Otto, Jurgen Otto/2017). (Nieuwenhuys and Otto, Jurgen Otto/2017)

Communication and Perception

Communication only occurs between males and females at the time of mating and resonates through vibrations or releases of airborne chemical pheromones. Maratus males use their abdomens and their third pair of legs to produce vibrations through the ground. Vibrations can then be detected by the female through sensory systems in their legs. Chemical pheromones, produced in the females abdomen, are used to produce silk drag-lines as they move about their environment (Girarb and Endler, 2014). Once the male comes into contact with these silk lines the pheromones can be detected by chemoreceptors, located on the legs. This triggers male courtship in the absence of their normal visual cues. This method of communication is more commonly used by the males to determine if the female is ready to mate. Maratus spiders have eight eyes that aids in the ability to perceive motion and depth. Their eyes are equipped with telephoto lens and tiered retinas containing UV-sensitive photoreceptors which they use to perceive motion. Their tiered retinas allows for their eyes to perceive colors in a way that is more similar to the way that birds perceive color (Girarb and Endler, 2014). (Girarb and Endler, 2014)

Food Habits

Maratus spiders are daily hunters and feed primarily on small insects such as crickets and other spiders (Girarb and Endler, 2014). Female Maratus spiders have been recorded eating the males during courtship if she is unimpressed by his visual displays (Pandika, 2013). (Girarb and Endler, 2014; Pandika, 2013)

Predation

Maratus spiders are prey to spiders and other carnivorous insects that are bigger in size. Due to their small stature, Maratus spiders have adapted the ability to jump up to 40 times their body length to avoid predation (Pandika, 2013). (Pandika, 2013)

  • Anti-predator Adaptations
  • cryptic

Ecosystem Roles

The ecosystem roles that Maratus spiders provide are similar to the role that all spiders provide in that they help regulate insect populations through consumption (DeMarino, 2017). (DeMarino, 2017)

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Maratus spiders feed on insects, which helps to control the size of the insect population. (Girarb and Endler,2014). This indirectly protects human agriculture. (Girarb and Endler, 2014)

  • Positive Impacts
  • controls pest population

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

With the given information that is known about Maratus spiders there is no evidence of negative economic issues towards humans. This may be due to their small size or that they are not poisonous to humans. (Horowitz, 2015)

Conservation Status

Maratus spiders conservation status is still unknown due to the lack of studies done on this genus. Arachnologist Jurgen Otto states that the primary threat to Maratus is habitat destruction through Australia’s controlled burns to reduce wildfires (Pandika, 2013). (Pandika, 2013)

  • IUCN Red List [Link]
    Not Evaluated

Other Comments

Peacock spiders were first discovered in the 1800’s but they went virtually unstudied after the 1950’s. They have slowly gained popularity thanks to their unique colorizations and dances. This popularity is evident within some of the newer species names, such as, Skeletorus (Maratus sceletus), Sparklemuffin (Maratus jactatus), and Elephans (Maratus elephans), all of which being based off of the patterns on their abdomens (Arnold, 2015). (Arnold, 2015)

Contributors

Abigail Short (author), Colorado State University.

Glossary

Australian

Living in Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania, New Guinea and associated islands.

World Map

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.

carnivore

an animal that mainly eats meat

chemical

uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

cryptic

having markings, coloration, shapes, or other features that cause an animal to be camouflaged in its natural environment; being difficult to see or otherwise detect.

desert or dunes

in deserts low (less than 30 cm per year) and unpredictable rainfall results in landscapes dominated by plants and animals adapted to aridity. Vegetation is typically sparse, though spectacular blooms may occur following rain. Deserts can be cold or warm and daily temperates typically fluctuate. In dune areas vegetation is also sparse and conditions are dry. This is because sand does not hold water well so little is available to plants. In dunes near seas and oceans this is compounded by the influence of salt in the air and soil. Salt limits the ability of plants to take up water through their roots.

diurnal
  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.
ectothermic

animals which must use heat acquired from the environment and behavioral adaptations to regulate body temperature

female parental care

parental care is carried out by females

fertilization

union of egg and spermatozoan

insectivore

An animal that eats mainly insects or spiders.

internal fertilization

fertilization takes place within the female's body

motile

having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

oviparous

reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.

pheromones

chemicals released into air or water that are detected by and responded to by other animals of the same species

polygynous

having more than one female as a mate at one time

scrub forest

scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season

sedentary

remains in the same area

sexual

reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female

solitary

lives alone

temperate

that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).

terrestrial

Living on the ground.

tropical savanna and grassland

A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.

savanna

A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.

temperate grassland

A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.

vibrations

movements of a hard surface that are produced by animals as signals to others

visual

uses sight to communicate

References

Arnold, C. 2015. Behold Sparklemuffin and Skeletorus, New Peacock Spiders. National Geographic, NA: NA. Accessed February 12, 2018 at https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2015/03/150324-australia-peacock-spider-sparklemuffin-new-species/.

Biddulph, K. 2013. "Everything you wanted to know about peacock spiders, but were too afraid to ask" (On-line). Unpopular Science. Accessed April 21, 2018 at https://unpopularscience.co.uk/everything-you-wanted-to-know-about-peacock-spiders-but-were-too-afraid-to-ask/.

DeMarino, N. 2017. "The Importance of Spiders to an Ecosystem" (On-line). Accessed April 23, 2018 at http://animals.mom.me/importance-spiders-ecosystem-6242.html.

Girarb, M., J. Endler. 2014. Peacock Spiders. Current Biology, 24/13: R588-R590. Accessed February 03, 2018 at https://www-sciencedirect-com.ezproxy2.library.colostate.edu/science/article/pii/S0960982214005910.

Girard, M., M. Kasumovic, D. Elias. 1874. Multi-Modal Courtship in the Peacock Spider, Maratus volans (O.P.-Cambridge, 1874). PLOS One, 6/9: 1. Accessed February 04, 2018 at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3181266/.

Horowitz, K. 2015. "5 Flashy Facts About Peacock Spiders" (On-line). Metal Floss. Accessed April 22, 2018 at http://mentalfloss.com/article/62195/5-flashy-facts-about-peacock-spiders.

Marfil, M., C. Scioscia, A. Armendano, A. Gonzalez. 2014. Diversity of Salticidae (Arachnida: Araneae) in the historical and natural reserve ‘Martín García Island’, Argentina. Journal of Natural History, 50/11-12: 689-700. Accessed February 11, 2018 at http://www.tandfonline.com.ezproxy2.library.colostate.edu/doi/full/10.1080/00222933.2015.1082655?scroll=top&needAccess=true.

Nieuwenhuys, E., J. Otto. Jurgen Otto/2017. "Peacock spider, Maratus volans" (On-line). Spiders of Australia. Accessed February 26, 2018 at https://ednieuw.home.xs4all.nl/australian/salticidae/Peacock_spider_Maratus_volans.htm.

Otto, J., D. Hill. 2011.

An illustrated review of the known peacock spiders of the genus Maratus from Australia, with description of a new species (Araneae: Salticidae: Euophryinae)
. Review of known Maratus from Australia, 96.1: 1―27. Accessed March 04, 2018 at http://www.peckhamia.com/peckhamia/PECKHAMIA_96.1.pdf.

Otto, J., D. Hill. 2017. Catalogue of the Australian peacock spiders (Araneae: Salticidae: Euophryini: Maratus, Saratus). Catalogue of peacock spiders, 148/1: 1-21. Accessed April 23, 2018 at http://peckhamia.com/peckhamia/PECKHAMIA_148.1.pdf.

Otto, J., D. Knowles, D. Hill. 2017. Males Show Their True Colors. Accessed February 04, 2018 at http://eds.a.ebscohost.com.ezproxy2.library.colostate.edu/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=12&sid=bfdc4ef7-78e7-48d4-b0db-33fa5d4b8b92%40sessionmgr4009.

Pandika, M. 2013. "Peacock Spiders" (On-line). Sierra. Accessed March 05, 2018 at https://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/2013-4-july-august/critter/peacock-spider.

Sarefo, 2018. "Maratus" (On-line). Accessed March 26, 2018 at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maratus.

Stavenga, D., J. Otto, B. Wilts. 2016. Splendid coloration of the peacock spider Maratus splendens. PubMed, 13/121: 1. Accessed February 02, 2018 at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5014068/.

Zurek, D., T. Cronin, L. Taylor, K. Byrne, M. Sullivan, N. Morehouse. 2015. Spectral filtering enables trichromatic vision in colorful jumping spiders. Current Biology, 25/10: 1. Accessed February 04, 2018 at https://www-sciencedirect-com.ezproxy2.library.colostate.edu/science/article/pii/S0960982215003486?_rdoc=1&_fmt=high&_origin=gateway&_docanchor=&md5=b8429449ccfc9c30159a5f9aeaa92ffb&ccp=y.